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Isolated and abused: women migrant domestic workers in Jordan

30 October 2008

Tens of thousands of women migrant domestic workers in Jordan face isolation, exploitation and abuse, with little or no protection from the state.

Migrant domestic workers are crucial to the economy in Jordan, contributing to the well-being of the households where they work and providing vital incomes for their own families and communities. Many face exploitation and abuse, working up to 19 hours per day. Wages are meagre, and some do not receive payment until years later.

Jordan has some 40,000 registered women migrant domestic workers. Many come from South and South-East Asia, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Many workers report being violently treated at the hands of members of their employer’s household; they say they are slapped, kicked, beaten, spat at and threatened with violence in the homes in which they work. Several have fallen to their deaths in recent years in circumstances recorded as accidents but which remain inadequately investigated and explained. Around 10 domestic workers are believed to commit suicide every year.

Many women migrant domestic workers are also routinely beaten by representatives of recruitment agencies shortly after their arrival in Jordan, apparently to frighten them and discourage them from running away or from making complaints about their employers.

Although new safeguards were introduced in 2003 in the form of a special contract for migrant domestic workers, they appear to have had little impact in practice.
Until this summer, the Labour Law in Jordan excluded domestic workers from the protection offered to other workers, such as minimum wage provisions, sick leave or days off. Amendments to the Law were endorsed by the Jordanian parliament in July to state that a separate regulation would be issued to define the terms of their working conditions. Although this is a step forward, more needs to be done to ensure that the rights of women migrant domestic workers are protected in line with international human rights standards.

 

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