New slaves

Sierra Leone’s women being tricked into modern-day slavery

A poster in Kuwait City at a Human Rights Watch press conference. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images

On the streets of Sierra Leone, recruitment agents are offering promises of work in hospitals or hotels to lure local women into traveling to Kuwait. But once these women arrive there, they are paraded, sold with a hundred days’ guarantee, and basically traded like cattle. They end up toiling inside isolated Kuwaiti mansions, where they endure “physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.” Almost 90 percent of Kuwaiti homes employ at least one foreign maid, with one domestic worker for every two Kuwaiti citizens. Exploitation is not uncommon. “You have to work 24 hours [with] no day off,” said one former worker. “You can never leave the house … You are not allowed to use mobile phones. These people are not good.” Kuwait’s kufala sponsorship system makes it tough for domestic workers to leave or change jobs on their own, since they’ll risk “illegal” residency status. With the demand for more foreign maids, agents are continuing to funnel duped women into Kuwait from across Asia and Africa. Although a law has been drafted to protect domestic workers, it’s making little progress. Maybe now’s a good time to finally pass it, before more women are forced into servitude.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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