Filipina maid tortured over alleged theft

Despite efforts by the authorities and human rights groups it appears that the attitude of some employers towards their employees will not change.

Last week, Filipina household worker Jessielyn Española was subjected to severe beating and other unimaginable tortures by the son of her employer for alleged theft of a gold necklace. Española, 49, married with three kids, was working with the same Kuwaiti household for past 11 years.

Española, who recently spoke about her ordeal to the Arab Times, had been beaten black and blue by the employer’s son and had bruises and welt marks all over her arms and legs, as well as a swollen face and puffed, black-ringed eyes. Narrating her suffering, Española said that despite pleading her innocence, the employer’s son would not listen and instead punched her in the eyes, kicked her and dragged her by the hair before pummeling her with a steel shisha vessel. The son threatened to kill her if she did not confess to the crime and return the necklace.

Española finally managed to seek refuge in the bathroom, where she locked herself in until the son left. Later, she begged the daughter to take her to the hospital, but she refused and instead gave her some medicines to apply over her wounds. Española’s sponsors were not in the country at that time when the incident happened.

So at night when no one was around, she managed to slip a note to her friend who posted it online where it was shared and reached the attention of the Philippine embassy officials. The embassy notified the Kuwaiti authorities and she was subsequently rescued by the police and taken to the Saad Abdallah police station on June 17.

A case has now been filed against the employer’s son and the embassy has delegated a Kuwaiti lawyer to handle the case.  Though Española is safe now at the shelter set up by the embassy, she continues to worry about her future and that of her family back in the Philippines. She has appealed for help from the President of Philippines.

The government clearly needs to bring in more stringent punishments for abusers whose mentality is still anchored to an era when slavery was rampant and was considered an acceptable social norm.

Employers need to realize that household workers are their employees and not their private chattel. More importantly, domestic workers are human beings and entitled to all the privileges and protection provided to them by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other labor rights, to which Kuwait is a signatory.

International labor law at its most basic level defines employer-worker relations as one person or entity hiring another person to provide a service for which they are paid a fixed or mutually agreed renumeration. It does not matter whether the worker is employed as a doctor or an engineer or is as a household helper, international labor law is equally applicable.

If there is any disagreement between an employer and an employee, then it has to be settled by the proper authorities in a court of law, not in a kangaroo court set up in the kitchen or basement of a household and presided over by a husband and wife team. Critically, employers have absolutely no right to take the law into their own hands and inflict punishment on their employees, or vice versa. In any civilized country there are proper redressal methods to settle complaints and everyone needs to adhere to these mechanisms.