imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Sexual Prey in the Saudi Jungle

by Walden Bello* Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011 at 6:20 PM

He was an officer in the Saudi Royal Navy assigned to the strategic Saudi base of Jubail in the Persian Gulf. She was a single mom from Mindanao, in the Philippines, who saw, like so many others, employment in Saudi Arabia as a route out of poverty. When he picked her up at the Dammam International Airport in June, little did she know she was entering, not a brighter chapter of her life but a chamber of horrors from which she would be liberated only after six long months.

Sexual Prey in the S...
_1__akbayan_walden-bello_risa-hontiveros_etta-rosales.jpg, image/jpeg, 389x338

The tale of woe recounted by Lorena (not her real name) was one of several stories of rape and sexual abuse that were shared by domestic workers with members of a fact-finding team of the Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs (COWA) of the Philippines House of Representatives, of which I was a member. The high incidence of rape and sexual abuse visited on the women we met in Philippine government-run shelters for runaway or rescued domestic workers in Saudi’s key cities of Jeddah, Riyadh, and Al Khobar most likely reflects a broader trend among Filipino domestics. “Rape is common,” said Fatimah (also an alias) who had been gang-raped in April 2009 by six Saudi teenagers. “The only difference is we escaped to tell our story while they’re still imprisoned in their households.”

The tragic experience of Filipinas parallels that of women from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other countries exporting domestic labor to Saudi Arabia. But while other governments have begun to take strong steps to protect their nationals, Manila has been paralyzed policy-wise between rising pressure from civil society to do something about the scandalous treatment of domestic workers in Saudi and the overwhelming desire of many impoverished Filipinos to work abroad to escape poverty at home.

Rape: the ever-present specter

The working conditions of many domestics, which include 18 to 22 hour days and violent beatings, cannot but be described except as virtual slavery. Slavery was abolished by royal decree in 1962, but customs are hard to overcome. Domestic workers continue to be treated as slaves in royal and aristocratic households, and this behavior is reproduced by those lower in the social hierarchy. Apparently among the items of the “job description” of a domestic slave in Saudi is being forced to minister to the sexual needs of the master of the household. This is the relationship that so many other women unwittingly step into when they are placed in Saudi homes by their recruitment agencies.

Rape does not, however, take place only in the household. With strict segregation of young Saudi men from young Saudi women, Filipino domestic workers, who usually go about with their face and head uncovered, stand a good chance of becoming sexual prey if they make the mistake of being seen in public alone—though the company of a friend did not prevent Fatimah from being snatched by her teenage captors. And the threat comes not only from marauding Saudi youth but also from foreign migrant workers, single and married, who are deprived by the rigid sexual segregation imposed by the ever-present Religious Police from normal social intercourse with women during their time in Saudi.

Lorena’s tale

Lorena is in her mid-twenties, lithe, and pretty—qualities that marked her as prime sexual prey in the Saudi jungle. And indeed, her ordeal began when they arrived at her employer’s residence from the airport. “He forced a kiss on me,” she recalled. Fear seized her and she pushed him away.

He was not deterred. “One week after I arrived,” she recounted, “he raped me for the first time. He did it while his wife was away. He did it after he commanded me to massage him and I refused, saying that was not what I was hired for. Then in July he raped me two more times. I just had to bear it because I was so scared to run away. I didn’t know anyone.”

While waiting for her employer and his wife in a shopping mall one day, Lorena came across some Filipino nurses, whom she begged for help. Upon hearing her story, they gave her a sim card and pitched in to buy her a load.

But the domestic torture continued. She would be slapped for speaking Arabic since her employer’s wife said she was hired to speak English. She was given just one piece of bread to eat at mealtime and she had to supplement this with scraps from the family’s plates. She was loaned to the wife’s mother’s household to clean the place, and her reward for this was her being raped by the wife’s brother; kinship apparently confers the right to rape the servants of relatives. Also during that month, October, she was raped--for the fourth time--by her employer.

She not only had to contend with sexual aggression but with sheer cruelty. Once, while cleaning, she fell and cut herself. With blood gushing from the wound, she pleaded with the employer’s wife to bring her to the hospital. She refused, and when Lorena asked her to allow her to call her mother in the Philippines, she again said no, telling her this was too expensive. The employer arrived at that point, but instead of bringing her to the hospital, he said, “You might as well die.” Lorena had to stanch the wound with her own clothes and treat herself with pills she had brought with her from the Philippines.

Rape amidst rescue

Wildly desperate by now, Lorena finally managed to get in touch with personnel of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Al Khobar. Arrangements were made to rescue her on December 30. That morning, the rescue team from POLO and the local police arrived at the residence. Lorena flagged them frantically from a second story window and told them she wanted to jump, but the team advised her not to because she could get break her leg. That was a costly decision, since the employer raped her again—for the fifth time--even with the police right outside the residence. When she dragged herself to her employer’s wife and begged her to keep her husband away from her, she beat her instead, calling her a liar. “I was screaming and screaming, and the police could hear me, but they did not do anything.”

When the employer realized that he was about to be arrested, he begged Lorena not to tell the police anything because he would lose his job and offered to pay for her ticket home. “I said I would not tell on him and say that he was a good man, just so that he would just let me go,” Lorena said. When she was finally rescued moments later, Lorena recounted her ordeal to the POLO team and police, and the employer was arrested.

Released from captivity, Lorena was determined to obtain justice. However, arduous bureaucratic procedures delayed a medical examination to obtain traces of semen right after her rescue. When it was finally conducted, she was given an emergency contraceptive pill--an indication, said the POLO officer who led the rescue, that seminal traces had been found in and on her. Also, the examination revealed contusions all over her body and bite marks on her lips.

The criminal investigation is still ongoing and the employer, who has been identified as Lt. Commander Majid Al-Juma-in, is still in jail at the Dammam Police Station. Lorena is worried that the evidence might be tampered with. “These people are influential,” she said. “They have a lot of money. I am only a maid. They said they could put me in prison.” Her fear is palpable. Her greatest wish is to be repatriated but she knows she must stay till he is convicted and sentenced to death.

Saudi society: a sexual pressure cooker

Lorena’s story shows, according to one Embassy official, that rape and cruelty is not confined to the lower class Saudi households. “This is an officer in the Saudi Navy, somebody that comes from the educated class.”

The reasons why rape and sexual abuse are endemic provoked an animated discussion among those who heard her. The strict sexual segregation, one member of the House team speculated, must create tremendous pent-up sexual pressure, so when the opportunity for sexual satisfaction appears, it explodes. Another said that the sexual abuse of domestics was an extension of the strict subordination to males and institutionalized repression of Saudi women. Whatever the causes, Saudi society is suffused with latent sexual violence, much more so than most other societies.

Tightening Supply, Growing Demand

Other governments have begun to take drastic steps to protect their citizens in Saudi Arabia. The Indian government has taken the drastic step of banning the deployment of women over 40 to Saudi Arabia. After a much-publicized case in which an Indonesia domestic worker suffered internal bleeding and broken bones from a ferocious beating by her employer, who pressed a hot iron on her head and slashed her with scissors, two labor-exporting Indonesian states, West Nusa Tenggara and West Java, banned the recruitment of domestics for employment in Saudi Arabia last December. Earlier, in October, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Labor backtracked from an agreement arrived at between the Saudi National Recruitment Agency and the Sri Lankan labor federation, asserting that the terms of the agreement was unfavorable to the Sri Lankan domestics and the Sri Lankan economy. This led the Saudis to indefinitely freeze recruitment from Sri Lanka.

These moves by other governments have led to greater demand for Filipino domestic workers. While the informal policy of the Philippine government has been to slow down the recruitment of domestics to Saudi, legal and illegal recruiters, many of them tied to Saudi interests, have been trying to step it up. The new administration of President Benigno Aquino III may soon reach a critical decision point on the issue of Saudi recruitment since the amended Act on Overseas Workers (Republic Act 10022) requires the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to certify that a country is taking steps to protect labor rights if workers are to be deployed there. With its hideous record and its resistance to expanding coverage of its labor code to domestic workers, there is no way Saudi Arabia can be certified.

Shattered lives

For members of the recent Philippine parliamentary mission to Saudi, who were shocked to speechlessness by the torrent of tales of cruelty, domestic repression, and rape, there is a consensus that every effort must be made to prevent Filipino women from going to Saudi to prevent recurrence of tragedies such as those visited on Lorena and Fatimah. For the many who have already been raped and degraded sexually, however, a move to prevent the deployment of more women to Saudi Arabia comes too late. Lorena may well secure the conviction of Lt. Commander Majid, but that will not restore her to her former self. As Fatimah put it in a handwritten note she passed on to the team, although her tormentors had been sentenced to seven years imprisonment and 2500 lashes each, “there’s no equivalent amount for what they’ve done. They destroyed my life, my future.”

*FPIF columnist Walden Bello of the political party Akbayan is chairman of the Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs (COWA) of the Philippine House of Representatives. In this capacity, he recently led a fact-finding mission to Saudi . He is also a senior analyst with the Bangkok-based institute Focus on the Global South.



http://www.focusweb.org/



http://www.facebook.com/pages/AKBAYAN-PARTYLIST/61953501555



Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 2 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Epidemic Tony Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 at 7:03 AM
how sweet more Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 at 7:24 AM

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Doxa du lobby A25 2:03AM

Tech workers organize A24 6:24PM

Architect Stephen Francis Jones A24 3:01PM

UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis Islands Call for A24 12:34PM

Xyloglossie attitudinale A23 8:07AM

Shadowgun Legends Hack and Cheats A23 7:24AM

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy