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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Convention on Domestic Workers a tough test to Mid-east host governments

Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), a migrants rights groups' alliance in the Middle East, today said the recent adoption by the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the Convention on Domestic Workers is like a 'litmus' test to middle-eastern governments hosting about 25-M domestic workers mostly from Asian countries.

M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona cited for instance most of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) member-countries have reservations in recognizing domestic workers' alienable rights as a worker and a human being citing 'customary practices and traditions'.

"Kuwait for example opposes the granting of day-off and specific the working hours for domestic workers," Monterona added.

On June 9, an official of Kuwait's social affairs ministry had been quoted by Al-Qabas newspaper saying the granting of day-off and specific working hours to domestic workers "does not suit the habits, traditions and public ethics of Kuwait". The Kuwaiti official added a maid during her day-off going to a place unknown to her sponsor is considered an offense to Kuwait's public ethics.

"It has been known that other GCC countries and non-GCC governments also cited 'preserving tradition and modesty of maids' as reasons to restrict domestic workers freedom of movement and giving them day-off, among others," Monterona noted.

Monterona said the rights of domestic workers should not be viewed as a 'threat to host-countries tradition and customary laws." "This could be harmonized by passing local laws that guarantees domestic workers rights while respecting the habits and traditions of the host country," the Filipino migrant leader added.

"The slave-like outlook about domestic workers in the Middle East must be changed, first and foremost. This is what the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers had told the host governments including that in the Mid-east –that domestic workers have rights too, rights that governments must recognize, guarantee and protect," Monterona added.

"The passage of local legislation or policy recognizing domestic workers' rights and welfare in the national level by the host governments must follow suit," Monterona concluded.

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