By Sameera Aziz (Saudi Gazette)
Like the hundreds of incidents in the past, we recently came to know about one more sad news of an 11-month old baby girl who was strangled to death with a piece of cloth by a housemaid in Tabuk. The baby was found dead with a red face and bruises on her back. The maid admitted her crime during the investigation but the motive of the crime is unknown.
However, a lot of feedback regarding this heartrending news came to my knowledge, in which some were still trying to justify her transgression, saying it must be an outcome of the sponsor’s mistreatment of the maid.
Dr. S.M. Ahmed, a psychologist and lecturer at a university in Karachi, said that it is a psyche of the human being that he feels sympathy and pity with the deprived individual, and hence, he can be pardoned. Rich or poor, both can be good as well as bad. The character of a man depends more on his state of mind rather than on his wealth.
Poverty is an adversity which can disturb the mindset to the extent that exaggerates the negative attitude of a person. For example, poverty can produce a thief, a deprived green-eyed or a depressed evil. Should we pity the poor criminal?
Prior to proceeding further, I’d like to make it clear that I don’t intend to malign the profession of domestic helpers as I view them with great respect given the fact that they make efforts to earn money and work with dignity rather than beg. Ten years of my career has seen me not only covering the incidents of maltreatment of housemaids but also the fact that I personally help them out in whatever capacity I can. However, sometimes I feel pity for myself for being fooled into supporting a few wicked and lying housemaids.
Being a part of Saudi society, it’s my duty to show the other side of the coin by exposing the negative face of these housemaids who are smart enough to gain our sympathies with their bunch of lies and some crocodile tears.
What causes this bitterness in the relation between the maids and their sponsors? This can be defined by some blunt and real cases:
Many Saudi women told me that when their housemaids place a glass of water on the table in front of their husbands, they bow in a way that their necklines plunge quite low in a seducing manner.
When they are told to wrap a shawl around themselves so as to cover the neckline, they make an excuse that they can’t work easily with a shawl or simply, choose to say ‘goodbye.’
Perhaps, while some men may be pleased by these cheap invitations, many others show no interest, while some others may be bored with watching it happen and have ignored it.
However, one can assume that using it as a weapon of a woman, these housemaids can accuse the men of rape. Some housemaids are very keen to know when their sponsors’ wives take bath in the morning as this gives them an idea about the marital relations between the sponsor and his wife.
One lady caught her housemaid when she was wearing the lady’s costly dress and sandals. Another housemaid was caught while giving eatables, such as, milk, oil, eggs, and vegetables to a taxi driver. It is also very common for the housemaid to intentionally burn costly dresses while ironing them due to jealousy. These types of minor incidents start a cold war between the housemaid and her sponsors. In view of such things, women become strict with their maids. The maids then start taking revenge, even to the extent of indulging in black magic. Many of them write a secret message in some hidden corner of their room before leaving the job so as to misguide the new maid.
Many of you have probably noticed that housemaids these days possess mobile phones. Indeed, these devices can help them get help from their respective consulates and can be used in times of an emergency. However, I have an altogether different experience in this matter.
Despite the fact that phone expenses are not a part of the sponsor’s responsibility and his contract with the maid, I voluntarily provided mobile phones to my housemaids so that they can easily talk to their family and not stealthily use the mobile accounts of my children. However, I pay their bills up to only SR100 a month so that my free grants will not increase their limitless cravings.
One day, surprisingly, my driver informed me that our 49-year-old housemaid is linked with a number of men. When I checked the list of dialed and received numbers on her phone, she admitted giving ‘missed calls’ to some men. In response, they sent her free credit with which she would call them back, hence saving a large amount of her credit to call her relatives in her home country. I don’t know what type of talks she had with those men, who foolishly agreed to pay for her mobile bills.
Moreover, I revealed to my maids that I have installed cameras equipped with the latest technology in my home and at the main gate, as one of my friends has been a victim of theft committed by her housemaid and her male companion.
In many cases, the non-Muslim maids spoil the faith of the sponsors’ innocent children. I know some cases in which these maids teach immoral habits to teenage boys for money. Spitting in a glass of water or mixing filth in food is also very common.
Housemaids always make false stories of rape or maltreatment when they run away. They never admit that they abscond to earn more salaries that range between SR1000-1500 a month, along with holidays twice a month and the liberty to live with their companions. One of my relatives deported her driver after she caught him with an absconding maid who came to spend her weekend at the driver’s room that was built outside her villa. Another housemaid who was granted a weekly holiday to meet her sister became pregnant and accused her sponsor’s brother of being responsible. However, soon she broke down and admitted her link with a tailor. She was deported.
I remember my conversation with Dr. Hussain Al-Shareef, Supervisor of National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) in the Makkah region. He agreed that while there are many cases of abuse of domestic helpers, there are some other cases in which the sponsor is victimized. Usually the sponsor wants to get rid of the absconding maid’s air ticket expenses as she was not found honest. So he never comes forward to explain his version of the story and the bad experience with his housemaid. Hence, his woes remain untold.
The media, especially the English media, which is capable of internationally exposing the corrupt housemaids, usually raises the cases of victimized housemaids, seldom highlighting the sponsor’s story. I have personally known that many of our media bosses think that a story of a poor suffering housemaid receives more attention than a story of a wealthy sponsor who has been victimized. This attitude of the media portrays Saudi sponsors as unkind.
Even after all these negative observations about housemaids in Saudi society, I will never agree that we should not hire housemaids. I say we should have them if we can afford them. How and why – I will discuss in another column.
Here, I will conclude by saying that the five fingers of a hand are not equal. I have known many domestic helpers who are very proficient. They are a blessing for their sponsors. If we learn how to handle these things wisely, carefully and honestly, we can gain more comfort for ourselves. After all, our positive attitude is to our own benefit.