Sondos Alqattan on human rights in Kuwait
Sondos Alqattan has got everyone talking about human rights in Kuwait. Sondos is a social media superstar with 2.3 million followers on Instagram. (How do you do it Sondos? I mean apart from talking about cosmetics and pandering to the widespread racism of Kuwaiti society?)
There are about 700,000 domestic servants in Kuwait, out of a population of 4 million, and many of them are from the Philippines. In February 2018, the body of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipino maid, was found in an abandoned freezer where it had been left for a year or more. Her family had been asking the Kuwaiti authorities for help ever since Joanna stopped calling home in 2016, but were told: “it was humanly impossible to attend to them … there was too much work.” When the body was found, Demafelis’s employers — Nader Essam Assaf and his wife, Mona Hassoun — fled Kuwait and were later arrested in Syria. Assaf, a Lebanese national, was taken to Beirut, while Hassoun was held in Damascus. After a month of being asked nicely, Assaf confessed to killing Demafelis and was charged with murder.
Rodrigo Duterte, President of Philippines, and a man with anger management issues of his own, took a very poor view of employers storing Filipino domestic servants in Kuwaiti domestic appliances and temporarily banned his citizens from working there until they were granted better protections. (Being given the right not to be shoved in a freezer is a not too much to ask in terms of employment protection, after all.) The Kuwaiti government, offered the extraordinarily generous concession that domestic workers would, from now on, be given one day off a week and would, shock of all shocks, be allowed to keep their own passports!
Ms Sondos Alqattan took exception to this and posted a video complaining “How can you have a servant at home who has her passport with her?” When various cosmetics brands severed their links with her, she justified her remarks’ “What do human rights have to do with [the servant] keeping her passport? Even our kids don’t hold on to their passport.”
And here, it seems she has given the game away, because you see, Ms Alqattan, our relationship with our children is not the same as our relationship with our staff. We are legally responsible for looking after the welfare of our children; until they reach adulthood we feed them, house them, educate them and hopefully love them. They, in return, give up certain freedoms (such as the freedom to have a passport and run off somewhere) and occasionally they do as they are told. Our staff are different – we pay them, and so long as both parties are happy, they keep working for us. If we stop being happy, we fire them. If they stop being happy, they leave. If a servant does not have a passport then they are not free to leave. If they are not free to leave then they are an indentured servant and indentured servitude is banned under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a form of slavery.
So that, to answer your question Sondos Alqattan, is what is has got to do with human rights.
If you want to know more about human rights in Kuwait don’t ask Sondos.
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