Kuwait Bill to punish abuse of foreign workers
KUWAIT: Kuwait may bring in tough penalties for employers abusing
foreign workers and maids as a result of criticism by the United States
and violent protests by Asian workers demanding better pay and
The Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has introduced a Bill
stipulating jail terms of up to 15 years for offences including forced
labour, abusing workers or sexually exploiting maids, according to a
copy obtained by Reuters.
In June, a U.S. State Department report on forced labour and the sex
trade placed Kuwait in the ‘worst offender’ category, alongside fellow
Gulf states Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.
Last week, hundreds of mainly Bangladeshi cleaners and workers staged
to demand better pay and working conditions, saying they could not
live on their salaries after employers or agents deducted housing,
medical and meal costs.
Some protesters complained they were paid as little as 8 dinars
($30.11) a month, and that they were mistreated by their employers, an
allegation the government acknowledged was a main reason for the
“The trade in people is a crime which humanity has witnessed and
suffered from for centuries and it is still being practised in a new way
till today,” the bill said.
“We have presented ... a draft law to criminalise human trafficking.
It will be a civilized law to meet international demands,” said MP
Waleed al-Tabtabae who co-authored the bill.
Ali al-Baghli, a former oil minister and head of the Kuwait Society
for Human Rights, said there was a good chance the law would be passed.
“It is a good idea to present a local law that prohibits human
trafficking because Kuwait’s reputation has reached a low level,” he
Foreigners make up about two-thirds of Kuwait’s 3.2 million
Women from Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the
Philippines work as maids and nannies across the Gulf, and many complain
of rights abuses.
In 2006, the United Arab Emirates passed the Arab world’s first law
aimed specifically at combating trafficking in people, followed in
January this year by Bahrain.