Governments have an obligation to end abusive practices by employers and recruitment agencies. International human rights law places positive obligations on states to protect the rights of individuals against acts, including ill-treatment and discrimination, committed by private persons or entities. States must take appropriate measures (in some places referred to as due diligence) to prevent, punish, investigate, or redress the harm caused to individuals rights by private persons or entities. States must also provide effective remedies to those so harmed.332
Relevant human rights treaty law ratified by some or all of the states addressed in this report include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Migrant Workers Convention).
International human rights law establishes the security of person and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.333 In the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the United Nations stated that governments have an obligation to prevent, investigate, and in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether these acts are perpetrated by states or by private persons.334 A states consistent failure to do so amounts to unequal and discriminatory treatment, and constitutes a violation of the states obligation under CEDAW, to which Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, the UAE, and Sri Lanka are party, to guarantee women equal protection of the law.335 The Migrant Workers Convention, to which Sri Lanka is a party, provides that migrant workers have a right to security of person and shall be entitled to effective protection by the State against violence, physical injury, threats and intimidation, whether by public officials or by private individuals, groups or institutions.336
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Kuwait, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka are party, recognizes the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work.337 Such conditions must ensure (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with: (i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work; (ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant; (b) Safe and healthy working conditions; (c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted ; (d) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays.338 Regarding non-citizens rights at work, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discriminations General Recommendation No. 30 states that once an employment relationship has been initiated and until it is terminated, all individuals, even those without work permits, are entitled to the enjoyment of labor and employment rights.339
The ILO has developed a comprehensive body of conventions that address virtually every aspect of workers rights. These include ILO Convention No. 95 on the Protection of Wages, which Sri Lanka and Lebanon have ratified, and the ILO Convention on Forced Labor, No. 29 and ILO Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Employment and Occupation, both of which Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, the UAE, and Sri Lanka ratified.340
As ILO members, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, the UAE, and Sri Lanka have an obligation to realize fundamental rights in the conventions.341 The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (ILO Declaration) has recognized the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation as one of the fundamental rights, which all ILO members have an obligation to respect, to promote and to realize, even if the member has failed to ratify the core ILO conventions governing those rights.342
Transnational labor movement requires international cooperation. Cooperation between Sri Lanka and the countries of employment is necessary to craft mutually enforceable and recognized employment contracts that provide substantive protections, create effective complaint mechanisms and investigation procedures, and provide redress for abuses.
An SLBFE official explained that the SLBFE has pressured the Sri Lankan government to negotiate and sign bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with countries of employment. The SLBFE official said, Service agreements formulated by Sri Lanka are not accepted by receiving countries, so service contracts developed here in Sri Lanka are not accepted by Saudi Arabia, et cetera. We want MOUs to incorporate service contracts.343 The director of the migrants rights NGO Action Network for Migrant Workers (ACTFORM) told Human Rights Watch, Bilateral contracts, government-to-government contracts, are needed. We have multilateral contracts between agencies. These current multilateral contracts are between the agencies in the receiving country, the SLBFE, and workers. But they are only in English or Arabic language; the workers dont understand... Whatever agreements there are here, the question of enforcement in the receiving countries is non-existent. They dont enforce in the receiving country . Government-to-government contracts are needed because otherwise the multilateral contracts arent recognized.344
In the UAE, service agreements signed in Sri Lanka between workers and recruiting agencies are not binding unless they are created pursuant to a bilateral agreement with the sending country.345 On May 27, 2007, the UAEs Ministry of Labour signed an MOU with Sri Lanka, at last creating a bilateral contract for Sri Lankan domestic worker in the UAE. Before the two countries signed the MOU, recruiting agencies provided Sri Lankan workers with seemingly valid contracts that were not legally binding in the UAE. An MOU between Lebanon and Sri Lanka was pending at this writing,346 but because the content of the new MOU was not publicly available, it remained unclear whether it would provide substantive protections or whether it would legitimize the inadequate systems currently in place.
While such bilateral agreements are helpful in setting standards, they often provide weak protections and have few mechanisms for enforcement and redress. Because of the increasing number of countries now sending people abroad to perform domestic labor and the discriminatory belief in receiving countries that domestic workers do not warrant the labor law protections afforded to other categories of workers, Sri Lanka is in a weak position with the countries of employment to obtain agreements that adequately protect the rights of migrant workers. The difficulty of enforcing bilateral agreements, even when they provide adequate protections, points to the importance of such agreements committing states to create domestic legal reforms. To avoid a race to the bottom, where labor-sending countries compete with each other by offering fewer labor protections, labor-sending countries should pursue regional agreements with agreed-on minimum standards that conform with international law.
As a labor-sending country, Sri Lanka has taken several important steps to comply with its obligations under international law to protect and enforce migrant domestic workers rights. However, it continues to fall short of its legal obligations under the Migrant Workers Convention and other international treaties to which it is a party.347 Strategic reforms in key areas could transform the fate of Sri Lankan domestic workers and provide greater guarantees for their safety and dignity while migrating.
Sri Lankas labor recruitment industry requires more stringent monitoring and regulation. While the Sri Lankan government has taken important steps to create a regulatory system for recruitment agencies, there are still important gaps, and the regulations that do exist are not adequately enforced.
Existing laws require labor recruiters to be licensed by the SLBFE, forbid labor agencies from directly charging prospective migrant workers, and require labor agencies to conduct their business in a morally irreproachable manner.348 Charged with monitoring and controlling the activities of the over 580 licensed recruitment agencies operating in Sri Lanka, the SLBFE has the authority to conduct inquiries into recruitment agencies practices, inspect documents related to job placements, and require agencies to compensate workers when an agency has failed to take steps to ensure that an employer complied with a migrant workers contract conditions.349 The SLBFE has the power to cancel the licenses of recruitment agencies, which has the effect of blacklisting them,350 and it can instruct Sri Lankas foreign missions not to approve job requests by certain foreign agencies after the agency has been warned.351
These are useful initial measures; however, because the SLBFE does not monitor labor agencies regularly or rigorously, the identification and penalization of labor agencies that violate the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act regulations is rare. Additional needed measures include unannounced inspections, accessible complaint mechanisms for domestic workers, an accreditation mechanism for labor agencies that meet certain standards and have a record for ethical business, and a monitoring mechanism in which migrant workers are asked before departure the amount they paid in recruitment fees. The SLBFE is the institutional mechanism to regulate private recruitment agencies, but its objectives also include assisting and supporting foreign employment agencies in growth and development.352 The SLBFEs mandate to foster the growth of foreign employment agencies appears to conflict with its role as regulator for the industry.
Another key area for reform is enhanced regulation and monitoring of subagents. The government should promulgate and implement strong regulations about the conduct of subagents and create significant penalties for violations. Licensed agencies currently hire and delegate duties to subagents, but bear no responsibility for the illegal actions of the subagents they hire. Because licensed agencies frequently work with a consistent roster of subagents and pay them commissions, a licensing and regulation system by which licensed agents register their subagents is possible to implement. Numerous migrants rights NGOs told Human Rights Watch that they have called on the Sri Lankan government to implement such a registration and monitoring system. A migrants rights leader said, We are telling the government to change their laws, so that they have licensed agents take the subagents under their responsibility. We want amendments to the SLBFE Act; we need to extend agents responsibility over subagents.353
The Sri Lankan government continues to fail to regulate, monitor, or punish subagents illegal recruitment practices, and one official has said the government has no plans to license subagents or to hold licensed agencies accountable for the actions of their subagents. An SLBFE official told Human Rights Watch, We do not have any plan for registering subagents right now They are key actors in the industry, we have to accept it. They are acting in an ad hoc way. Their activities are not stuck to one place. If we give them more recognition it will create more problems.354
The Sri Lankan governments introduction of a mandatory pre-departure training program for migrant domestic workers is a step in the right direction. However, there are significant shortcomings in the current program that the government needs to address: existing trainings provide inadequate or incorrect information about domestic workers rights and insufficient coursework in the Arabic language. Domestic workers reported that during the compulsory SLBFE training for domestic workers bound for the Middle East, the only information about their rights that trainers provided was the advice that they should run away to the Sri Lankan embassy. Trainers provided the phone number of the embassy, but little else. Many domestic workers were misinformed about their rights, and some interviewees were unaware they could leave abusive employers before their contract period ended. Domestic workers told Human Rights Watch that additional Arabic language training is necessary, in order to negotiate better working conditions, gain contractually-promised wages, and better protect their rights overall.
The SLBFE training is compulsory only for women migrant workers. There are 34 training centers, 11 of which are run by private licensed agencies but which use SLBFE instructors and follow the same syllabus. The 12-day training for domestic workers bound for the Middle East is compulsory only for first-time women migrants to the Middle East. Its eight modules include instruction on basic Arabic language skills, use of household equipment, traditions and customs of the countries of employment, and counseling on how to protect themselves from HIV infection, and how to mentally adapt to socially sensitive topics.355 The final day of the training includes a briefing for domestic workers spouses on adjustment and potential problems their spouses may confront abroad.356 Only three to four hours of the 12-day course are devoted to migrant domestic workers rights.357 According to a SLBFE official, the session on domestic workers rights includes a briefing about how domestic workers should look after themselves if they confront sexual abuse and harassment, and the telephone number of the embassy.358
Lawyers from the Legal Aid Commission, which provides legal assistance to about 100 domestic workers each year, runs an awareness program for migrant workers, and began participating in the SLBFE training in early 2006, criticized the training program. One lawyer said, Not enough propaganda has been done in Sri Lanka about the rights [domestic workers] have under the ILO conventions and the Migrant Workers Convention.359 A labor agent with over 30 years experience recruiting Sri Lankan women as domestic workers to the Middle East said, I think the training programs are useless . What the government should do is to educate the women how to face the problems . The housemaid going there should know how to read and write, and how to contact people on phones, so she should have the numbers of her people here and of the employer there.360
One domestic worker who had worked in Kuwait said of the rights component of the training, In the training they told us that if you face any problems, there is a Sri Lankan embassy and you can get help from the agent. Thats all we were told. They gave us the address and number of the agent. And after going there they gave us the number of the Sri Lankan embassy.361 Another domestic worker who had migrated to Dubai and Lebanon said, I have been through the training here. I was kind of told about rights in training. I was advised to call either the Sri Lankan embassy or [my] agent, but I did not have the Sri Lankan embassy number, just the number of the agent in Dubai. I called the agent but he did not help me. Basically, I was told about the Sri Lankan embassy and the agent. They told me whatever problems you have, try to contact these two authorities, but when I was working, wherever I have worked, I was not allowed to make calls.362 In an October 2002 survey of 400 households, the University of Colombo and Migrant Services Centre found that only 12 percent of the returned migrant domestic workers surveyed were aware of their rights as workers when they first left for employment.363
Domestic workers also told Human Rights Watch that the language component of the training should be expanded. A domestic worker who had worked in Dubai and was undergoing the SLBFE training for Cyprus at the time Human Rights Watch interviewed her said, I think we need to develop the training. The training should develop language, because I think that is where the problems begin.364
Presently the SLBFE training program does not officially hire trainers with experience as domestic workers. Instead, they are from the health, banking, and linguistics sectors. In a probationary pilot program, the SLBFE has recruited some trainers with over five years experience working as a domestic worker abroad, and is evaluating their performance.365
The Migrant Workers Convention provides that Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to be informed by the State of origin, the State of employment or the State of transit as the case may be concerning their rights arising out of the present Convention.366 It also provides that States Parties shall take all measures they deem appropriate to disseminate the said information or to ensure that it is provided by employers, trade unions or other appropriate bodies or institutions.367 A UN General Assembly resolution similarly urge[s] concerned Governments, in particular those of the countries of origin and destination, to support and allocate appropriate resources for programmes aimed at strengthening preventative action, in particular information for target groups, education and campaigns to increase public awareness of this issue at the national and grass-roots levels, in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations.368 The UN General Assembly also has encouraged member states to adopt measures to inform women migrant workers of their rights and the benefits to which they are entitled.369
In a misguided response to concerns about the welfare of Sri Lankan migrant domestic workers and their families, the government of Sri Lanka has proposed a migration ban on mothers of young children. On March 7, 2007, Sri Lankas ministerial cabinet approved a proposal by the Minister for Child Development and Womens Empowerment that would ban women with children under five years of age from migrating for work. The regulation would also require mothers with children aged five or older to obtain approval from a government committee after submitting proof that they can provide appropriate caretakers for their children.
The Sri Lankan governments stated rationale for the proposed migration ban is its concern about the social impact of migration on children who are unable to accompany their mothers abroad. In a press release issued on March 8, 2007, the government justified the policy on the grounds that migrant womens children have become helpless and vulnerable, and lack nutrition and healthcare.370
Sri Lankan migrants rights groups protested the proposed ban, and the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare announced that the government was reconsidering the ban in light of the protests.371 At this writing, the ban had not yet been ratified by Parliament. Rather than further restricting migrant women workers rights by implementing the ban, the government should instead enhance economic and educational opportunities for women in Sri Lanka so that domestic workers can migrate based on choice rather than desperation. The proposed ban would prevent many mothers from supporting their children by banning them from the only form of work they can find. Many women with young children told Human Rights Watch that their childrens survival depended on income earned abroad, such that migration was in fact their best option. One mother of five said, I did not find anywhere to work in Sri Lanka, so there was no income and I had to borrow money to eat and to cover other daily expenses. My children were very small and there was nothing in the house when I left [to migrate].372
Sri Lanka has obligations under its constitution and international law to protect women from discrimination, including in employment. The Sri Lankan Constitution provides, in article 12, that no citizen may be discriminated against on the basis of sex.373 International human rights treaties to which Sri Lanka is a party also ban discrimination against women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Sri Lanka ratified in October 1981, requires states to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment, including by providing the right to free choice of profession and employment.
Largely excluded from local justice mechanisms, migrant domestic workers sometimes flee to their embassies or consulates in the countries of employment in a desperate bid for assistance. Sri Lankan missions in countries of employment typically receive several complaints each day and may shelter more than one hundred women workers in distress at any given time.
Human Rights Watchs research documented gaps in the services provided to Sri Lankan domestic workers who seek assistance from the Sri Lankan embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE. Sri Lankan foreign missions provide shelter to domestic workers who have run away from their employers, assist detained migrant workers, and assist in repatriation of Sri Lankan migrant workers. Gaps include failure to provide rescue assistance to domestic workers who contact the foreign mission for assistance escaping from or obtaining transfer from an abusive employer; lack of follow-up on cases after workers have sought assistance from the foreign mission; failure to provide information about avenues for redress available to domestic workers who have suffered abuse; shortcomings in provision of assistance to domestic workers seeking redress; lack of counseling services to traumatized domestic workers; and poor conditions in embassy and consulate shelters.
In comparison with Sri Lankan embassies, the Philippines has extended stronger protections to Filipina domestic workers through the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration and its diplomatic corps.
Sri Lankan foreign missions in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE do not provide rescue assistance to domestic workers who contact them for assistance escaping abusive work situations. Numerous domestic workers who contacted the Sri Lankan embassy or consulate in search of assistance when they experienced workplace abuses were told simply to run away. For domestic workers forcibly confined in the workplace, this form of assistance is inadequate. In some cases, Sri Lankan domestic workers suffered ongoing abuse because they did not receive assistance from their embassy when they confronted abuse and were confined in their workplace or were afraid of the consequences of fleeing on their own. Jayanadani A. tried to seek assistance from the Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia and was unable to escape her employers home where she was later raped and impregnated by her employers son. She said,
Another domestic worker who has worked in the Middle East five times, for over 10 years, recommended, There should also be a system where the housemaids can get help from the embassy when they need it We should be given the telephone number of a particular office or person. If we call, that person should be able to locate us in that house.376
Consular officials often do not follow up on cases in instances where domestic workers have contacted the embassy to request assistance. An official who has worked for the SLBFE for over eight years made the following recommendation to Human Rights Watch:
Sri Lankan consular officers often failed to provide information about options for redress available to domestic workers who suffered abuse. Several domestic workers reported that embassy and consulate officials did not provide them with information about lodging a formal complaint against abusive employers or labor agents. A migrant domestic worker who experienced abuse at the hands of her employer and labor agent in Dubai said,
Welfare officers stationed in the foreign missions are charged with taking legal action against employers to recover domestic workers unpaid wages or personal belongings in the employers custody, but none of the domestic workers Human Rights Watch interviewed had successfully recovered unpaid wages with the assistance of consular officials. 379 One domestic worker who sought the assistance of a Sri Lankan consular official in Lebanon to recover 12 months of unpaid wages said, I told the officer at the embassy that the employer did not pay my salary. The officer told me that since I have run away from the house they would not pay me anything. He did not write anything down, and he did not tell me anything. He just listened I still have received nothing.380 An SLBFE official told Human Rights Watch, The Foreign Relations Division, through the consulate, takes legal action against the sponsorthe employer. That is very weak on that side.381 Another SLBFE official noted that welfare officers require additional training on pursuing legal actions, We have appointed officers to embassies to look after women with complaints but we have to educate them on how to handle complaints.382
If there is to be any hope of redress for affected workers, Sri Lankan consular officers must inform them that they need to pursue cases of unpaid wages and other abuse while still in the country of employment. The director of the migrant workers desk of the Legal Aid Commission, which provides legal aid to about 100 domestic workers each year, said, If a migrant has a problem abroad, after she comes back there is no provision to get the money we cant get their salaries back Unpaid wages and physical abuse are not covered by the welfare fund. We have no authority to recover wages for nonpayment, so far we couldnt [recover any unpaid wages].383 An SLBFE official stated, Action should be taken at the foreign embassy. Once the woman arrives here it is late to take action . It is very difficult to get anything from abroad, to try to get damages for physical abuse, harassment, money for break of contract (non-payment of wages usually).384 A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official added, For long-term unpaid wages, we take [employers] to court if they are still in-country, but its impossible to pursue a court case after shes back in Sri Lanka.385
Human Rights Watch research revealed that there are gaps in provision of trauma counseling services to needy domestic workers in embassy and consular shelters. A domestic worker who suffered extreme physical and psychological abuse by her employers in Kuwait said, I was at the embassy for two months . There was no counseling I lost all my hospital records. I dont know what to tell the doctor here.386 Domestic workers also reported that conditions in the Sri Lankan embassy and consular shelters often were poor. A domestic worker said: There was a lack of food, no cup of tea, no sugar, cockroaches here and there, it was a dirty place [In the embassy] they gave me an iron bed, it was hard for me to sleep there . Even the food was not enough. There were 200 ladies there They promised to provide a dress, but they didnt give that either.387 Another domestic worker told Human Rights Watch, There is no place in the Kuwaiti embassy for us to sleep We should be given a better place.388
The case of Rizana Nafeek, a 19-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, has drawn international attention to the need for improved consular assistance to detained domestic workers. First arrested in 2005, she did not have access to legal counsel until after a Sharia court in Saudi Arabia sentenced her to death in June 2007, ruling that she had murdered an infant in her care. 389 At this writing, she had filed an appeal of the judgment with the assistance of legal counsel and was awaiting a decision on her appeal.390 Many detained migrant domestic workers do not have access to interpreters, legal aid, or basic information about their cases. When receiving governments do not provide migrants with access to interpreters and lawyers, the response of Sri Lankan foreign missions becomes critical. Although Sri Lankan foreign missions sometimes are not informed when nationals are detained, at other times consular officers delay or fail to provide needed assistance, as in Rizana Nafeeks case.
The Migrant Workers Convention provides that, Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to have recourse to the protection and assistance of the consular or diplomatic authorities of their State of origin or of a State representing the interests of that State whenever the rights recognized in the present Convention are impaired.391
Sri Lankas ability to comply with the Migrant Workers Conventions provisions concerning consular services depends heavily on the cooperation of the countries of employment. Cooperation between the Sri Lankan foreign missions and the countries of employment is necessary to rescue domestic workers in distress, systematically record complaints of abuse, launch and carry out investigations of abuse of migrant domestic workers, and ensure detained migrant workers legal rights are protected.
Inadequate Complaint Mechanisms and Victim Services upon Return to Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan government has instituted complaint mechanisms and victim services to help returning migrant workers obtain redress when their rights have been violated. The government provides assistance to some returning workers through its Workers Welfare Fund insurance scheme, launched in October 1994 to provide insurance for death, disability, repatriation expenses, and health care in specified conditions to migrant workers registered with the SLBFE.392 However, in practice these measures have been far from adequate.
A primary area for reform is the services and information provided at the SLBFE counter located in the arrivals area of the international airport in Sri Lanka to assist returning migrant workers, and at the SLBFEs Sahana Piyasa (Place of Relief) shelter located near the international airport to provide services to returning migrant workers. While these programs are an important step in providing assistance to abused domestic workers, they represent lost opportunities to provide domestic workers with information about complaint mechanisms and services available to them, and to initiate efforts to obtain redress for domestic workers. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed had received information at the SLBFE airport desk or shelter regarding the existing institutions and programs that provide counseling, medical services, or legal assistance for domestic workers wishing to pursue legal action against labor agents or employers. Most women reported that SLBFE officials provided little, if any, information about complaint mechanisms available to them, and many complained that SLBFE officials did not adequately record their grievances.
For example, a domestic worker who was raped and impregnated by her employers son in Saudi Arabia told Human Rights Watch she received little assistance at the SLBFE airport counter:
A domestic worker who suffered physical abuse and was not paid for all 10 months of work in Saudi Arabia similarly reported that SLBFE staff at the airport counter did not provide any information about pursuing a complaint. She said, I made the complaint at the airport. They [at the SLBFE desk at the airport] got only my address and my flight number. They did not write any information about the salary matter, or the details of my employer or of the agency. They did not tell me anything or ask me [for] more information, they just said go in the bus to a different place, they will pay your bus fare to your house.394
At the Sahana Piyasa shelter, SLBFE staff people provide tea, a meal, and transportation assistance to most migrant domestic workers who return in distress. They do not provide detailed information about pursuing complaints or services available to victims of abuse. Officials record some information about womens experiences abroad, but these interviews are very brief. In cases of severe medical need, SLBFE officials arrange for ambulance transfer to a hospital for treatment. An official at the Sahana Piyasa shelter explained the limited services they offer: We pay for passage to go straightaway home, 200-625 rupees [US$1.78-5.55]. Other people come herewe give them transport here, give them refreshment, bath, meals, tea. If they need rest, we can accommodate 40 people at once. People who can go home, we give them money to go home. We send them to the central bus stand in Colombo or Negombo. We have a bus and a van to provide transport. We will inform parents to pick them up here.395 In a single month, September 2006, the shelter provided welfare services to 454 women (759 migrants total) returning from abroad, and provided bus fare to 323 women (628 total).396
Just before leaving the SLBFE shelter for her home, an 18-year-old who was subjected to physical abuse and sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia told Human Rights Watch, I just arrived [at the shelter] and I havent gotten anything other than lunch. They havent told me anything yet. No one here made promises about [giving me or getting me] money. I would want to make a complaint.397 Another domestic worker who suffered sexual harassment, unpaid wages, and forced labor in her place of employment in Saudi Arabia, and was raped after she escaped from her employers said SLBFE shelter staff did not provide her with information about pursuing a case against her employers. She said,
In most cases, women workers Human Rights Watch interviewed did not pursue complaints because the SLBFE had provided them with no information about how to do so. In the few cases in which women pursued complaints with the SLBFE conciliation division, they encountered obstacles to obtaining any redress, including unsupportive SLBFE officials and lengthy travel time and high costs to travel to SLBFE offices. In Kumari Indunils case, the SLBFE did not recover any of the eight months unpaid wages owed to her. She filed complaints at the Sri Lankan foreign mission in Kuwait and at the SLBFE in Sri Lanka. She said, Once I got a call from the Bureau of Foreign Employment asking for my insurance number. They called me to come to a meeting to share my experience They did not ask me to bring any documents and did not promise me any financial support They did not give me an opportunity to talk at the meeting, because lots of people come to the meeting and the ministers select who can talk... I asked for an opportunity to talk.399
In another case, Nalinika M. found that the complaint procedure was extremely burdensome and entailed high travel costs:
Nalinika M. further explained, I think the officers at the Bureau, they are not helping me wholeheartedly. I travel a long way to Colombo, but they do not push the agent to come to the meetings. Whatever the agent says, the officer at the Bureau just says yes. [The SLBFE] are not putting pressure on the agent or the boss to come to the meetings. They have the authority to put pressure on the boss.401
In 2005, the SLBFE Conciliation Division received 6,994 complaints from returning domestic workers. Only 5,027,285 rupees [US$44,647] was paid in compensation to the 8,823 female and male migrant workers who lodged official complaints, averaging only US$5 per migrant worker in compensation.402 The director of the Legal Aid Commission, which provides legal aid to 100 domestic workers each year, said that the SLBFE frequently fails to act on complaints the Legal Aid Commission files. He said, Whenever the complaints come we write to the Foreign Ministry but their attitude is based on the numbers and income for the state, not the human rights We get a reply: We have considered the matter, we have written a letter to the foreign office. Its not much of a help.403 He continued, Mostly it is no use; we satisfy the migrant worker by counseling 50 percent of cases end with a letter to the Bureau.404
The SLBFE provides no counseling services at its shelter located near the international airport. Services at the SLBFE Sahana Piyasa airport shelter are limited to contacting the migrant workers relatives and sending her home. Human Rights Watch observed SLBFE shelter staff shuttling numerous women showing obvious signs of distress away to their families after perfunctory intake interviews without providing trauma counseling services or referrals for these services. An official at the Sahana Piyasa shelter reported the shelter receives less than 10 serious cases per month, sometimes three to four women who have suffered extreme abuse, cases that surely warrant counseling or referral services.405 In another case, SLBFE shelter staff did not provide a sick and abused domestic worker with any information about medical services. She said, I came to the airport today early in the morning, around 3 a.m. When I arrived at the airport I said I cannot move alone because I have a bag and am not feeling healthy, so some people arranged a van and brought me here [to the SLBFE shelter] . I am scared and want to go see the doctor. And in the morning blood comes out These people here are not telling me anything about the doctor.406
Response of the Countries of Employment: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates
The labor laws of Saudi Arabia,408 Kuwait,409 Lebanon,410 and the UAE411 categorically exclude domestic workers from legal protections, including provisions on payment of wages, hours of work, paid holidays, and workers compensation. Depriving domestic workers of basic labor protections encourages the mistreatment of workers by giving improper labor practices the imprimatur of the state.
The UAE labor law explicitly excludes domestic workers from protection under the Labor Law No. 8 of 1980.412 While the UAE is currently considering revisions to the 1980 labor law, the draft law opened for public review and comment in February 2007 explicitly excludes from protection all domestic workers employed in private households. The UAE introduced a standard contract for domestic workers which went into effect on April 1, 2007, and provides for some protections of domestic workers, but it contains no limit on working hours, no provisions for a rest day or overtime pay, no workers compensation, and only provides for unspecified adequate breaks and one month of paid vacation every two years.413 The standard contract does not serve as an adequate substitute for extending equal protection to domestic workers under the labor law, which contains much stronger protections, including an eight-hour limit on working days, and guarantees a weekly rest day, daily one-hour rest periods, overtime pay, one month of annual paid leave, and workers compensation for occupational injuries.414
After a decade-long process to create a revised labor code, the Kuwaiti government thus far has failed to include domestic workers in its draft labor law, which categorically excludes domestic workers from its protection.415 On October 1, 2006, Kuwaits Ministry of Interior put into effect a standardized domestic labor contract that specifies a minimum wage and forbids passing fees on to workers, and that must be signed by the worker, the Kuwaiti recruitment agency, and the employer. Although the implementation of the standard contract is an important step, the protections it affords migrant domestic workers fall short of those provided to other workers under the labor law. As in the UAE, the government of Kuwaits standard contract for domestic workers is not an adequate substitute for extending the protection of the countrys labor laws to include domestic workers.
The provision of separate and weaker protections for domestic workers has an impermissible discriminatory impact on women workers. The exclusion of domestic workers from standard labor law protections constitutes unjustifiable disparate impact discrimination on the basis of sex, as prohibited under non-discrimination principles enshrined in international law. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),416 and the Migrant Workers Convention prohibit discrimination on the basis of such distinctions as sex, language, national or social origin, or other status. Lesser protections for domestic workers that may appear neutral on their face have disparate impact on migrant women, who make up the vast majority of domestic workers.
The exclusion of migrant domestic workers from the labor laws of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE constitutes double discrimination, on the basis of their status as non-citizens as well as their sex. The ILO has noted that women migrant workers suffer from double discrimination in employment: first because they are foreigners and hence subject to the same discrimination as male migrant workers; and second because they are women and as such often victims of entrenched traditional attitudes in their country of origin or of employment.417 In general, non-citizens are entitled to freedom from discrimination on the basis of their status as aliens. With a few exceptions that do not apply to labor protections, the non-discrimination guarantees of the ICCPR prohibit discrimination on the basis of nationality.418 The UN Human Rights Committee, charged with interpreting the ICCPR, has explained, The general rule is that each one of the rights of the Covenant must be guaranteed without discrimination between citizens and aliens. Aliens receive the benefit of the general requirement of non-discrimination in respect of the rights guaranteed in the Covenant.419
International law also guarantees equality before the law and equal protection under the law.420 Under the ICCPR, all people subject to a states jurisdiction are entitled to equal protection under the law.421 These protections include non-citizens and women. Therefore, protective legislation on working conditions or wages, such as labor laws, must be applied equally to non-citizens and women.422
The kafala, or sponsorship, systems in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE limit migrant domestic workers ability to transfer from one employer to another, such that their occupational mobility is highly restricted. These sponsorship laws tie migrant workers visas to a specific employer, or sponsor, rendering workers at high risk of ongoing abuse and exploitation. These immigration regulations severely circumscribe migrant domestic workers options when they face abuse.
Under the sponsorship laws of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE, migrant workers require a local sponsor in order to obtain a visa to work in these countries, and sponsors have authority over migrant domestic workers legal identity cards. Because sponsors control the renewal of workers visas, employers can terminate migrant domestic workers contracts by allowing the work visas to expire. Employers also have control over whether migrant domestic workers can leave their employment. The initial sponsor must provide a transfer paper releasing the migrant domestic worker in order for her to change employment, leaving domestic workers at risk of arbitrary denial of their request to transfer employment, even in cases of abuse. Because migrant domestic workers visas are tied to a specific employer, if a domestic worker flees an abusive employer, she loses her legal immigration status and faces the risk of detention or deportation.
In Saudi Arabia, sponsors even have control over whether and when migrant domestic workers can leave the country. The government of Saudi Arabia requires domestic workers to obtain an exit visa, which is controlled by the sponsor. A labor agent with over 30 years of experience recruiting Sri Lankan domestic workers for work in the Middle East explained that after the first three months of employment, domestic workers who wish to leave their contract early require an exit visa and a court order to do so: In Saudi Arabia, the maid goes to the embassy and the embassy takes her to court and the judge has to decide whether to release her from the contract. The employer signs and then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stamps the contract, this is called legalization.423 The Ministry of Social Affairs also runs special shelters for domestic workers where they process exit visas for domestic workers who are unable to secure their employers consent. Migrant workers cannot obtain an exit visa to leave the country of employment without the approval of their sponsor. By so empowering sponsors, the Saudi government is violating the domestic workers right to freedom of movement. Arbitrary denials of exit visas can also place domestic workers in situations that amount to forced labor.
The UAE has recently been reviewing many of its labor regulations and introducing positive reforms. Despite recent changes in the UAEs transfer laws, limitations on migrant domestic workers ability to transfer employment to a new sponsor expose migrant domestic workers to abuse. In the UAE, a February 2006 reform of the countrys transfer laws withdrew a one-year work ban on migrant domestic workers who wished to transfer sponsors. Under the previous system, migrant domestic workers could not change sponsors, as leaving their sponsors employment resulted in cancellation of their visas, and those wishing to change employers were banned by law from working in the UAE for one year. However, even under the revised transfer laws, domestic workers can change sponsors only if they obtain a no objection certificate from the original employer or have completed their work contract, and domestic workers must pay visa transfer fees that range from 1,500 dirhams [US$408] in Dubai and 500 dirhams [US$136] in the other emirates.424 According to Sharla Musabih, a director of the UAEs only shelter for domestic workers abused by their employers, [M]any previous sponsors punish their employees by not issuing a no objection certificate, forcing them to exit the country. Others put a ban on [workers] from several months to one year, which prevents them from entering the country or finding work during this period.425 Although the law does provide an exception for workers who can prove they have not received their salary for two months or have a labor case in the courtsallowing them to request a sponsorship transfer without approval of the original sponsorin practice it is difficult to prove non-payment of wages and few domestic workers cases are pursued in the courts.
In Kuwait, the Ministry of Interiors standardized domestic labor contract, put into effect on October 1, 2006, changed the sponsorship regulations for migrant domestic workers and instituted a total ban on transfer of sponsorship, which is likely to have a disastrous effect on domestic workers wishing to flee abusive work conditions.426 Under the standardized domestic labor contract, domestic workers are no longer allowed to transfer residence to another employer or find other jobs while in Kuwait, but instead are to be immediately deported if they leave their employer or if their employer terminates them.427 Hashem Majed, General Manager of the Kuwait Union of Domestic Labor Offices (KUDLO), an association of labor recruitment agencies, has criticized the provision.428 Although the government of Kuwait announced in 2005 that it intended to reform the sponsorship law, a revised sponsorship law had not come into effect as of this writing.429 The Social Affairs and Labor Ministry has reported that three studies are underway to examine possible reforms to the sponsor system, to be considered by Kuwaiti ministers, but it is unclear whether these reforms would supersede the standardized contracts transfer provisions.430
Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which authorities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE failed to investigate and prosecute abuses reported by Sri Lankan domestic workers, despite the existence of directly applicable criminal laws. Domestic workers who experience abuse encounter numerous obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of abuses. Domestic workers face the threat of countercharge for theft if they lodge a complaint against an abusive employer. In many cases, domestic workers do not know their employers full names or addresses, making it difficult for the authorities to locate employers against whom complaints have been lodged. One worker said, The embassy staff asked for Babas phone number, they are trying to call the police and catch him . They told me, we have no telephone number, no address, what can we do? I dont know the employers telephone number.431 Employers and labor agents sometimes fail to register changes of address, and the Sri Lankan embassy loses track of workers when employers do not register a change of employer or address, similarly making it difficult to locate abusive employers.
Several migrant domestic workers Human Rights Watch interviewed reported that when they sought assistance from the authorities in their country of employment, these authorities returned them to the very employers from whom they had escaped. Ponnamma S. tried to run away from her employer in Saudi Arabia and told Human Rights Watch that police returned her to her employer against her wishes:
She later ran away a second time, and went to the Sri Lankan embassy instead of the police because a Sri Lankan warned her that the police would return her to her employer again.
In some cases, domestic workers do not receive assistance when they seek help from police. These authorities sometimes return the domestic worker to her employer against her wishes, or fail to investigate the reported abuse. Selvakumari W., a 26-year-old domestic worker, told us that after nine months of enduring sexual harassment by her employer and employers son, she ran away and sought assistance from the police in Saudi Arabia. She told us the police returned her to the custody of her employer:
Domestic workers also confront other obstacles to prosecution. When they seek assistance from authorities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UAE, or in the Sri Lankan foreign missions, they often do not receive information on how and where to present a complaint. Domestic workers also have to stay in the country, not working, while a criminal case is pursued. They face the threat of counterclaims by employers falsely accusing them of theft or adultery, and they face the threat of prosecution for adultery or fornication if they have been raped. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) reports that although theoretically domestic workers can turn to the courts in the UAE, more often than not, legal fees and the fear of reprisals or even expulsion deter them from taking any official action.434 Another factor that hinders prosecutions is lack of evidence, because abuse cases take place in the private sphere and police lack training on identifying potential abuse cases and collecting relevant evidence.
331 Human Rights Watch interview with Paramitha E., Rambe, Sri Lanka, November 5, 2006.
332 See, e.g., Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 (2004), para. 8; UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 48/104 (A/RES/48/104), article 4(c) (States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should: (c) Exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons).
333 ICCPR, art. 7 (freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment).
334 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, December 20, 1993, G.A. res. 48/104, 48 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 217, U.N. Doc. A/48/49 (1993), art. 4.
335 CEDAW, art. 15; ICCPR, art. 26. See also CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation 19, Violence against Women, para 6.
336 Migrant Workers Convention, art. 16(1)-(2).
337 ICESCR, art. 7.
338 ICESCR, art. 7. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is widely recognized as reflective of customary law, provides that everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working and periodic holidays with pay, as well as the right to just and favorable remuneration, and the freedom to form and join trade unions. UDHR, arts. 23 and 24.
339 UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation 30, Discrimination against Non-citizens (Sixty-fourth session, 2004), U.N. Doc. CERD/C/64/Misc.11/rev.3 (2004), http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/e3980a673769e229c1256f8d0057cd3d?Opendocument (accessed May 31, 2007), para. 35.
340 ILO Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect to Employment and Occupation.
341 The ILO Declaration states that all Members, even if they have not ratified the Conventions in question, have an obligation arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights which are the subject of those Conventions. International Labour Conference, ILO Declaration, para. 2.
342 International Labour Conference, ILO Declaration, para. 2.
343 Human Rights Watch interview with L.K. Ruhunage, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 30, 2006.
344 Human Rights Watch interview with Viola Perera, ACTFORM, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 2, 2006.
345 International Labour Organization, Preventing Discrimination, Exploitation and Abuse of Women Migrant Workers: An Information Guide, Booklet 3: Recruitment and the Journey for Employment Abroad (Geneva: ILO, 2003), p. 34.
346 Human Rights Watch interview with L.K. Ruhunage, SLBFE, Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2007.
347 The Migrant Workers Convention contains prescriptions for sending states in articles 33 and 65. Under these provisions, migrant workers have a right to be informed by sending states of their rights under the Convention and of the migration procedures of receiving states, and states are responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies regarding migration; an exchange of information, consultation and cooperation with competent authorities of other States; and the provision of appropriate information, particularly to employers, workers and their organizations on policies, laws and regulations relating to migration and employment. The Convention also specifies that sending countries can protect the rights of migrant workers by equipping migrants with information about opportunities for and legal methods of migration, providing consular services for migrants abroad, and policing dangerous smuggling and trafficking practices. Migrant Workers Convention, arts. 1(2), 33, 65.
348 Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, No. 21, 1985, sections 28(1), 31, 34.
349 Ruhunage, Institutional Monitoring of Migrant Recruitment in Sri Lanka, in Kuptsch, ed., Merchants of Labour, pp. 57-58; Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, No. 21, 1985, section 44.
350 Human Rights Watch interview with L.K. Ruhugane, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
351 Human Rights Watch interview with Sumedha Ekanayake, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
352 Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, No. 21, 1985, sections 15(a)-15(d); Ruhunage, Institutional Monitoring of Migrant Recruitment in Sri Lanka, in Kuptsch, ed., Merchants of Labour, pp. 55-56.
353 Human Rights Watch interview with migrants rights leader, Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 30, 2006.
354 Human Rights Watch Interview with L.K. Ruhunage, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
355 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, training division, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
356 Human Rights Watch interview with Shiranthi Ekanayake, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
357 Human Rights Watch interview with L.K. Ruhunage, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
358 Human Rights Watch interview with Shiranthi Ekanayake, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
359 Human Rights Watch interview with S.S. Wijeratne, Legal Aid Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2006.
360 Human Rights Watch interview with retired labor agent, name withheld, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 18, 2006.
361 Human Rights Watch interview with Soma W., Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, November 4, 2006.
362 Human Rights Watch interview with Chandrika H., Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, November 4, 2006.
363 Dr. A.J. Weeramunda, University of Colombo Dept. of Sociology; Migrant Services Centre; Migrant Workers Associations of Seeduwa/Gampaha, Kalutara, and Kegalle, Survey Results, Participatory Action Research in Gampaha, Kalutara, and Kegalle Districts (Colombo: Migrant Services Centre, 2002), p. 2.
364 Human Rights Watch interview with Savindi P., Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, November 4, 2006.
365 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, training division, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
366 Migrant Workers Convention, art. 33(1)(a).
367 Migrant Workers Convention, art. 33(2).
368 UN General Assembly, Violence against Women Migrant Workers, Resolution 60/139, A/RES/60/139 (2006), para. 8.
369 UN General Assembly, Violence against Women Migrant Workers, Resolution 60/139, para. 9.
370 Summary of the Cabinet Decisions, 3 March 2007: Restriction on Migration of Mothers, government of Sri Lanka press release, March 8, 2007, http://www.news.lk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1916&Itemid=51 (accessed September 6, 2007).
371 Govt. Re-Considers Ban on Young Mothers Working Overseas, Sunday Times (Colombo), May 13, 2007, http://sundaytimes.lk/070513/FinancialTimes/ft344.html (accessed September 6, 2007).
373 Constitution of Sri Lanka, art. 12.
374 Human Rights Watch interview with Susanthika W., Panadura, Sri Lanka, November 15, 2006.
375 Human Rights Watch interview with Jayanadani A., Kandy, Sri Lanka, November 10, 2006.
376 Human Rights Watch interview with Chaturi M., Rambukkana, Sri Lanka, November 6, 2006.
377 Human Rights Watch Interview with SLBFE staff member, name withheld, Kurunegala district, Sri Lanka, November 5, 2006.
378 Human Rights Watch interview with Chandrika H., Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, November 4, 2006.
379 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
380 Human Rights Watch interview with Arivudai H., Habaraduwa, Sri Lanka, November 14, 2006.
381 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
382 Human Rights Watch interview with L.K. Ruhunage, SLBFE, Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 30, 2006.
383 Human Rights Watch interview with Lelanthi Kumari, Legal Aid Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2006.
384 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
385 Human Rights Watch interview with Sumedha Ekanayake, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2006.
386 Human Rights Watch interview with Lakmini J., Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 9, 2006.
388 Human Rights Watch interview with Chaturi M., Rambukkana, Sri Lanka, November 6, 2006.
389 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Katib al-Shammari, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2007; Raid Austi, No Clemency from Family in Rizana Case, Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), July 29, 2007, http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=99059&d=29&m=7&y=2007 (accessed September 6, 2007); R.G. Dharmadasa, Family Weeps for Youngster in Saudi, BBC Sinhala.com, July 4, 2007, http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2007/07/070704_saudifeature.shtml (accessed September 6, 2007); Tim Butcher, Saudis Prepare to Behead Teenage Maid, Telegraph (London, UK), July 17, 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/16/wsaudi116.xml (accessed September 6, 2007).
390 Mohammed Rasooldeen, Rizana's Lawyers Meet Tribal Leaders in Dawadmi, Daily News (Colombo), September 25, 2007, http://www.dailynews.lk/2007/09/25/news27.asp (accessed October 8, 2007); Mohammed Rasooldeen, Lanka Minister to Broach Rizana Case With Officials, Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), October 7, 2007, http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=102142&d=7&m=10&y=2007 (accessed October 8, 2007).
391 Migrant Workers Convention, art. 12(2).
392 Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Report of the Committee on the Rights of Women Migrant Workers, pp. 18, 38, 78-79; International Organization for Migration, Labour Migration in Asia, p. 182.
393 Human Rights Watch interview with Jayanadani A., Kandy, Sri Lanka, November 10, 2006.
394 Human Rights Watch interview with Sepalika S., Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 9, 2006.
395 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
397 Human Rights Watch interview with Padma S., Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
398 Human Rights Watch interview with Chemmani R., Habaraduwa, Sri Lanka, November 14, 2006.
399 Human Rights Watch interview with Kumari Indunil (real name used upon request), Rambukkana, Sri Lanka, November 6, 2006.
400 Human Rights Watch interview with Nalinika M., Giribawa, Sri Lanka, November 7, 2006.
402 Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, Annual Statistical Report of Foreign Employment 2005, pp. 63-64.
403 Human Rights Watch interview with S.S. Wijeratne, Legal Aid Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2006.
405 Human Rights Watch interview with SLBFE official, Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2006.
406 Human Rights Watch interview with Punya K., Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 1, 2006.
407 Human Rights Watch interview with Al-Haj U.T.M. Anver, ALFEA, Colombo, Sri Lanka, October 31, 2006.
408 Labor Law, Royal Decree No. M/51, 23 Shaban 1426 (September 27, 2005), art. 7(2).
409 Act No. 38 of 1964 Concerning Labour in the Private Sector, art. 2(e).
410 Labour Code, Act of 23 September 1946, as amended up to 24 July 1996, art. 7(1).
411 Federal Law No. 8 for 1980, On Regulation of Labor Relations, art. 3(c).
413 Employment Agreement for Domestic Workers and Sponsors (UAE), put into effect April 1, 2007, arts. 2-3.
414 Federal Law No. 8 for 1980, On Regulation of Labor Relations, arts. 65-67, 70, 74-75, 144-146.
415 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights 2006 (Brussels: ICFTU, 2006), http://www.icftu.org/www/pdf/survey06/Survey06-EN.pdf (accessed September 6, 2007), pp. 364-365.
416 The ICCPR establishes that states shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The UN Human Rights Committee, charged with interpreting the ICCPR, has interpreted the Covenants sex discrimination prohibition by referencing CEDAWs language. In its General Comment on Non-discrimination, the UN Human Rights Committee used the definition of discrimination set out in CEDAW to interpret the ICCPR non-discrimination provision, so that the term discrimination is understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on any ground and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms. UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 18, Non-discrimination (Thirty-seventh session, 1989), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 (2003), p. 146, paras. 6-7.
417 International Labour Organization, Migrant Workers, 87 International Labor Conference 10, (1999), para. 367. See also Review of Reports, Studies and Other Documentation for the Preparatory Committee and the World Conference: Note by the Secretary-General, U.N. GAOR, Preparatory Comm., 2d Sess., Agenda Item 6, ¶ 24, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.189/PC.2/23 (2001), para. 22.
418 The ICCPR reserves a few specific rights for citizens. Article 25 of the ICCPR expressly reserves for citizens the right to participate in public affairs, to vote and hold office, and to have access on general terms of equality to public services. ICCPR , art. 25. ICCPR, art. 12. In its General Comment 15, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that the ICCPR obligations apply to any foreign national in the territory of a state party, except those rights in article 25 recognized in the ICCPR, which are expressly applicable only to citizens. UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 15, The Position of Aliens under the Covenant (Twenty-seventh session, 1986), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 (2003), p. 140, para. 2.
419 UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 15, The Position of Aliens under the Covenant, para. 2.
420 UDHR, art. 7; ICCPR, art. 26.
421 The law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground ICCPR, art. 26.
422 [T]he Committee observes that not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination, if the criteria for such differentiation are reasonable and objective and if the aim is to achieve a purpose which is legitimate under the Covenant. UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 18, Non-discrimination, para. 13.
423 Human Rights Watch interview with retired labor agent, name withheld, Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 18, 2006.
424 Bassma Al Jandaly, Decision on Maids will Benefit all Parties, Say Officials, Gulf News (Dubai, UAE), August 22, 2006, http://archive.gulfnews.com/indepth/labour/visas_and_the_law/10061828.html (accessed September 6, 2007).
425 Email communication from Sharla Musabih, City of Hope/Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, to Human Rights Watch, September 29, 2007.
426 The standardized contract cancels and replaces a previous directive that allowed domestic workers to transfer to a different visa sponsor only once every two years, with the consent of the former sponsor, in the form of a signature on a letter of release.
427 Ahmad Zakaria, Domestics Transfer Ban Effective October 1, Daily Star Kuwait Edition, August 26-27, 2006.
429 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights 2006, p. 364.
430 Sponsor System Alternatives, Kuwait Times , May 18, 2007, http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=MTU0NDYxMzYwMg== (accessed September 6, 2007).
431 Human Rights Watch interview with Ponnamma S., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2006.
433 Human Rights Watch interview with Selvakumari W., Katunayake, Sri Lanka, November 9, 2006.
434 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights 2006, p. 374.