There has been a drop in the number of foreign housemaids coming forward with allegations of abuse during Ramadan. In previous years, extended working hours and allegations of general mistreatment during the Muslim holy month were blamed for large numbers of domestic workers fleeing their employers and seeking shelter.
A similar increase in such cases was anticipated again this year, but so far there has been no surge in figures in the first half of Ramadan.
“Last year during this period (Ramadan), we had around 30 cases related to different violations,” said Indonesian Embassy second secretary and protocol and consular affairs head Muhammad Rifqi Fikriansyah.
“This year we only had a case of an Indonesian woman who wanted a pay rise because of an increase in workload during Ramadan.
“This shows that new cases have dropped this year, which is a good sign.”
He added the embassy’s shelter currently housed 11 cases, some of which were in court and others that were in the process of being addressed with employers.
“We were expecting an increase in the number of runaway domestic workers cases, but we are witnessing a decrease in the number of complaints,” said Mr Fikriansyah.
He attributed this decrease in cases to campaigns by foreign embassies and the government to educate workers about their rights and change the mindset of employers.
In previous years, there have been reports of employers forcing domestic staff to fast during the daytime, while still expecting them to work from morning until the early hours of the following day as a result of the late night culture associated with Ramadan.
However, the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) – which operates a shelter for distressed foreign workers – said this year it had received no new case in the first 10 days of Ramadan.
“The number of cases we are receiving in the past couple of years has reduced,” said MWPS chairwoman Marietta Dias.
However, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society is calling on employers to pay overtime to housemaids who work longer hours during Ramadan.
“Domestic help is overworked during Ramadan as some of them work for over 14 hours and they should be compensated adequately,” said BHRWS secretary-general Faisal Fulad.
“They prepare meals for Sahoor and Iftar in addition to cleaning and looking after children.
“It is important that they should be given one day off and have enough daily rest periods in order to do their job and stay healthy.”
The GDN reported last month that domestic workers accounted for around 8.5 per cent of Bahrain’s total population, with Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) figures showing the number of registered domestic workers had reached 105,203 in the first quarter. firstname.lastname@example.org