Friday, May 25, 2007

No Below 30 Maids

Renuka Chowdhury, the Indian minister of women and child development, has called for a ban on women under 30 to work as maids in the Gulf in a bid to curb sex trafficking.

While any attempt to improve the lot of poor women and children should be supported, it always vexes me when people try to cure the symptom rather than the disease. If your roof is leaking, you can't put a bucket under the leak and say all is well. Soon the bucket will overflow, leading to spillage on the carpet. Bacteria will grow in the stagnant water. Meanwhile your crack in the ceiling which caused the leak in the first place will continue to grow bigger.

Maids, abuse of maids and sex trafficking occur in the Middle East due to the complex nature of the society living in the oil rich states. First, the very example of the Prophet that is given in order to justify polygamy is completely ignored when it comes to household duties. The Prophet used to patch his own sandals, sew his own garments, searched his garment for lice himself, milked his sheep, and helping his wives with the household chores (Tirmidhi 5822). Yet today, in a typical rich household in the Middle East, there are maids to tend to the household tasks, nannies to take care of the babies, drivers to chauffeur the family, gardeners to tend to the lawn and so on. This culture of laziness has also caused a huge problem in modernizing the country - locals tend to ignore education (as their parents have huge oil wealth anyways). Ironically, the most interested in pursuing higher education with due diligence tend to be the females. So, where a family would require at most one maid, you have a whole army of servants tending to their every need.

Second, there is a superior belief, or arrogance if you will, about the supremacy of one race. This leads to looking down on many others as "rafeek", "miskeen" or what have you. Where else is it part of the culture to attend camel races where the jockeys are kidnapped children from Asia, malnourished to maintain a lower weight, and abused by trainers? Why did no one speak against such a vile and rampant practice for so long? Would any local permit his own kid to be a camel jockey? It is this sense of supremacy, of a feeling of one law for the locals and one for the foreign riff-raff, that ultimately leads to maid abuse.

Third, one has to examine WHY these local boys, sometimes as young as 14, look at the maids with lust. Is society causing unnecessary hindrance to natural inter-mingling of men and women that boys (and sometimes girls) have to resort to unorthodox manners to quench their subjugated thirst?

And finally, the fault must also lie with the governments of the subcontinent that knowingly allows its women to serve as maids abroad. They know they themselves have failed to alleviate poverty, to create employment and to structure social welfare programs. So while they busy themselves trying to legislate who can hug whom or tearing down video stores, they will turn a blind eye to the plight of women and children from their own shores being potentially abused as they just try to feed themselves and their family.

And everyone of them is Muslim!


Athena said...

It scares me every time I hear someone is going to the Middle East as a laborer or a maid. I try to smile and congratulate them like everyone else does but I also warn them that life isn't going to be easy like most are led to believe. I still remember all the stories by all our (runaway) maids :(. Since my mom worked and we were all kids we needed one and we'd get them from the Bangladeshi Embassy for as long as the embassy could let them stay with us. Some of these women were exceptionally wonderful people and it is disgusting how their lives have to suck so much.

youngMuslimah said...


how much I agree w/ the 3rd para..I share the same sentiments..

Anonymous said...

Nice post Mr. Mezba. Do they have two sets of laws in Arabia one for the Arabs and other for the Ajmis? I agree that the short term measures alone are not sufficient but we need to mend the roof and also put a bucket under the leak. It’s such a pity that people have resources and yet they don’t take advantage of them to improve their condition and also help the needy.

youngMuslimah said...

um, forgot to add, you lived in the UAE right? There's no gender segregation there.
There's strict gender segregation in Saudi Arabia. I don't agree w/ that. On the same hand, I don't believe in free mixing b/w the sexes , that'd be haram.
common sense tells me such behavior is improper.

just my opinion..

Anonymous said...

The maids who are tortured at home run away. They are beaten, kicked and raped. However, some are brought on the pretext of household jobs but are sold into prostitution. Dubai is the most recent and one of the largest prostitution hubs. Do you remember the video I posted some while back on Dubai’s prostitutes?

Those maids who are abused by their employers are another case and sadly Islam could do nothing to tame the shrews. With all the emphasis on respecting servants (slaves in those times) and ban on fornication, nothing has changed. Why men must rape maids is not only because they are segregated and so crave sex but also because they believe in “the more the merrier.” Remember they can have cheap sex with the many prostitutes available but rape has a sadistic charm; power over those who live with you is certainly more charming than sex which is bought. I have myself heard men explain that sex with maids is allowed in Islam since they are what their “right hands have possessed.” You can argue till you turn blue in the face but they have satisfied themselves that there is nothing wrong with sleeping with the maids.

Anonymous said...

good one mezba - very good points.
also - it isn't as if under those circumstances, a maid who was over 30 would necessarily be any less helpless.

the problem is that those employers probably think of their maids as their 'slaves', and what with the whole 'right hands possess' thingie..

but i feel we can't really only blame Arabs for thinking they are superior within 'Islam' -the global community of muslims to some extent feeds this through our obsession with Arabia and Mecca and what have you.this despite the alleged universality of our religion. everyone in south asia seems to think arabs are somehow 'true muslims' and not like the 'rest of us'..some kind of 'chosen people'. now we can see this very easily in a place like bangladesh now - so many people won't give their kids beautiful old bangla names - no they're 'hindu' we have to call everyone fatima. ( apologies to all fatimas out there - nothing against you lot) we have a lot of nice bangali names, that's all.

M said...

Asalaamu alaikum bro,

About 'society causing unnecessary hindrance to natural inter-mingling of men and women' ...I agree with YM; there are numerous hadith which tell us that men and women should be separate, and that they should interact only when there is a need to do so.

Am I missing something?

mystic-soul said...

When I read Quran and look at Muhammad's life, I feel proud to be muslim, but when I see and read about today's muslim world, I feel nauseated

mezba said...

Athena: it's amazing that in spite of the horror stories that keep coming back, people are still eager to try their luck. Everyone thinks it won't happen to them. I don't know why families agree to be split up so - I mean I am not in their shoes so can't imagine - but I would rather family live together rather than seas apart.

Young Muslimah: I wish people would take the little things the Prophet did - those little gestures that mean so much - a bit more seriously rather than abuse his other examples out of context.

Skeptic: They may not officially have two laws but it's the practice. Let's not even talk about Saudi makes me so depressed what's going on in the birthplace of Islam.

Youngmuslimah: there's a degree of 'free' mixing that's allowed and some that's improper. Saudis have taken it to the ultimate extreme. You will see this is why in the UAE rates of drug abuse, maid abuse, social ills are much lower amongst the youth (especially men).

Suroor: "The devil can quote the Scriptures to suit his purpose" how true is that statement!

I guess there are some people in the world who are sad that slavery is banned - so they continue it under another name!

Sonia: I know what you mean. I am going to stay culturally true and recommend Bengali names to everyone. I hate the Arabisation of Islam that South Asians are guilty of. A shawarma is NOT an Islamic food .... a burger is as equally Islamic as is a Rosogolla.

A: Intermingling is different that dating etc. Compare Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia. Which one is a more vibrant, happier, colorful and expressive society?

Mystic-soul: I echo your feelings.