Stiff Penalties

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 2, 2007 (AFP) – An Islamist lawmaker in Kuwait called for the interior ministry on Tuesday to draw up a blacklist of employers who mistreat their domestic helpers and urged stiff penalties for physical abuse. MP Waleed al-Tabtabai said in a statement that employers who abuse their maids “physically or morally” should be added to the blacklist and prevented from hiring new maids.

The lawmaker also urged authorities to refer all employers who physically abuse their maids to court.

The phenomenon of maid abuse “has lately increased to a disturbing level and a large number of abuses are committed annually, with most cases failing to reach the court,” said Tabtabai, a member of parliament’s human rights panel.

Kuwait, which has a native population of one million, is home to 2.2 million foreigners, 550,000 of whom are domestic helpers and drivers from Asia, mainly India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Philippines.

Thousands of runaway maids seek refuge at their embassies every year complaining of mistreatment and non-payment of wages.

In June, the US State Department added Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar to its blacklist of countries trafficking in people, accusing them of mistreating