Kuwaiti blogger under fire over comments on Filipinos

Beauty blogger heavily criticised for saying she wanted helpers to work seven days a week

Dubai: A famous Kuwaiti beauty blogger is under fire for complaining about changes to laws to recruit domestic help from the Philippines.

Sondos Al Qattan, who has 3.2 million followers on social media, was outraged by the new law imposed by the Kuwaiti government after the Philippines government demanded certain changes. She voiced her feelings on social media on Thursday.

Al Qattan posted a video addressing her government on the new laws and the cost to recruit domestic help. She said the new law does not guarantee her rights as an employer and opens her up to exploitation by the employee. She further said she often does not get the service she expects in return for the hefty amounts she pays to recruit a Filipino helper.

According to changes in the Kuwaiti law governing the recruitment of help from the Philippines, a maid will work 12 hours a day, with a one hour break. She or he must be provided a personal mobile phone with internet connection.

The help must get one day off a week. The employee must be given an annual holiday of 22 days. She or he must also be given a ticket home after two years. The employee must keep her or his passport at all times.

The employer is obliged not only by law but also by Arab norms and traditions that over and above the salary, the help is given free accommodation, free food, toiletries and full health insurance which will provide access to private hospitals and clinics.

The employer must pay for her residency costs, which amount to more than $2000 a year. There is also a $2,000 deposit that is given to the government as a guarantee. This is refunded when the help leaves the country after the contract has expired.

The employer must also pay large sums of money to an agency in the Philippines to recruit the help, pay for an air ticket and a visit visa for the employee to enter the country. The Kuwaiti government ensures the rights of all employees before they arrive. 

Other governments have not specified rules to recruit help into Kuwait from their countries.

Al Qattan stressed that the employee has been given rights, but what of the employer? In a video she posted on Instagram she asked: “Who will guarantee my rights if this maid takes her passport and leaves. Who will compensate me after all the money that I have paid?”

There have been several cases in the Gulf where domestic help have used the employer to enter the country and then fled with the passport to look for better opportunities. Employers have repeatedly said their rights have not been safeguarded. There have also been cases where employers have violated the rights of employees and subjected them to abuse.

Al Qattan expressed loudly on social media what most employers in the Gulf countries are talking about. She said clearly “it is not about the 12 hours of work with a break because that happens already, it’s not about the free phone or access to the Internet because that is normal, but it’s about the day off when the help is allowed to leave the house with passport in hand.” “Who will guarantee my money when she vanishes?” Al Qattan asked.

She was then slammed that she wanted helpers to work seven days a week.  Al Qattan found herself under heavy attack and criticism. Some called her racist and that she wants to go back to days of slavery. She was bashed as a human with no heart and no morals.

Comment: Trial by social media

In this age of social media, debate has turned into harassment and bullying. This is done most often by those who are ignorant of the issue or are intolerant.

They resort to name calling and labelling. It is trial and sentencing by social media without evidence.

Sondos Al Qattan in her video used the term Filipino maids. She was called racist instantly. And then then the entire Gulf region was labelled as racist. 

Racism is a word used lightly these days. Al Qattan used the word Filipino because the law governs Filipino maids and not any other nationality. 

Calling them domestic help, maids, or nannies is not a crime. These are terms in English, but in Arabic there is one word, which is known as khadimah. When Al Qattan used the term khadimah, she meant domestic help. She did not mean slave or servant as people on social media said.

A khadimah or khadim translates to a person who provides a service, and to be more precise a person who provides me a favour. It comes from the word khidmah.

Arabic has always been described as a beautiful and respectful language. Arabs at no point in history needed to change their terminology to sound politically correct. Slavery at no point in modern history was found in this region. Slavery was abolished with Islam. Arabs are famous for saying: “How do you enslave people, when they were born free.” Humans of all nationalities, race and colour were free in this part of the world.

According to Arab norms and traditions, those who live under my roof are my responsibility, not just financially but also physically and morally. Be it a maid, a driver, a cook or any person who is in my household.

They will be fed my food and from my table, taken care of when sick, married off under my expense when they want, their families when under distress I will take care of. And that’s why you find in our households helpers who have been with us for more than 20 and 30 years. 

Once one understands the traditions and norms of this region one will understand the sponsorship system. The Gulf visa sponsorship system is a simple system to regulate the status of an expatriate. The system welcomes all nationalities of all sects and class, gives them legal status and safety to obtain any job they desire with a wage controlled by the government to ensure basic human rights are met. 

Al Qattan was attacked personally for denying a person her rights, she was mauled for being racist. And soon the attack on social media labelled everyone from the Gulf as offenders of human rights and racist. This trial and sentencing on social media is barbaric because the insults become personal and most often, people are ignorant of the facts.

Al Qattan voiced her opinion. Understand what she said. Understand the laws of the land. Understand the traditions and norms of the land. Then perhaps, we all can guarantee human beings their rights.

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