Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Filipina OFWs: Sexual Preys in the Saudi Jungle

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Hi All,

During my travels abroad, my conversations with Filipinas in places where I happen to meet them: having coffee at a fastfood, serving gelato, manning the internet cafe, shopping at a street market, waiting at a bus stop, cleaning the stairs, etc. are always depressing experiences for me; they anger me and feed the resentment I have for our native rulers in government, of our rulers who--since the Marcos Dictatorship-- rule mainly for the benefit of foreign interests and their local native and alien partners.

Our rulers dupe our OFWs by calling them "heroes." Yes, our rulers have OFWs as their heroes because the OFWs serve their purposes: to earn dollars and send remittances to pay the odious foreign debt started by Marcos and perpetuated by his successors Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and now, I think and believe will be unchanged by B. Aquino. 
So these rulers and their cohorts continue to steal government revenues and borrowed funds [foreign debts]; knowing that the humongous remittances from the blood, sweat and various humiliations of the OFWs make up for their thievery.

NO!! The OFWs are neither my nor your heroes, our OFWs are victims; victims all including their families and loved ones left behind.

Though I hope I am proven wrong, I predict that under this second Aquino, nothing will improve since he comes from the same socioeconomic and/or aristocratic class. The new Aquino government, just like its predecessors, will only continue to keep the government coffers supplemented by the remittances from its exported native slavery and perpetuate the thievery for selfish personal gain for themselves, relatives and/or their minions while simultaneously ignoring badly needed public/social services, i.e. health, education, housing, food, etc. Not to mention the necessarily imperative fundamental reforms, i.e. agrarian/land reform, conviction and long-term incarceration of the most corrupt group of rulers, government officials, military officers, past and present, etc. (actually they deserve to be executed because their thievery has resulted in the early deaths among the unknown, native poor, young and/or old.).

Foreign investment inflow has been a trickle for years, if one spends a few minutes looking at our Bangko Sentral statistics vis-a-vis OFW remittances. Makes me wonder why our [mendicant] rulers still agree and open the doors to foreigners, i.e. by following the rich nations-controlled WTO dictates, for foreign mining companies who irresponsibly pollute our rivers and lakes and displace residents, etc. (under the worn-out classic reason [or guise] of attracting foreign investments that our homeland supposedly need to economically catch-up ; an Economic 101 assumption that we native Filipinos have perennially been taught, heard and read about since the time of our American colonization. 

Only ignorant persons and lying economists will keep saying such misleading claim. Still our rulers and technocrats preach such lies and which kept our homeland one of the  resource-rich but poor nations of the world.  By unquestioningly joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the Ramos regime and ever since following/agreeing to its rules, our homeland and the native majority are in ever-deepening predicament. All these agreements were made for the native Filipino majority, who are kept in the dark like mushrooms [the darkness of illiteracy and ignorance], thanks to our rulers, government bureaucrats and westernized technocrats.  

And very subtly and most importantly for these rulers, to provide a pressure relief to the social volcano (that is, preventing or delaying a revolution) lest it erupt, should there be so many unemployed or underemployed college graduates and professionals joining the perennially much ignored, if not violently suppressed, farmers, peasants, workers, etc. protesting in the streets. Thus, the native Filipino diaspora is promoted, rationalized, encouraged, and hailed by the members of the ruling class rather than acting for the common good to prevent the native diaspora (include brain drain).

As any concerned and thinking Filipino knows that -- our OFW caregivers, especially our women are discriminated against.-- just because they desperately emigrate from an underdeveloped and economically regressive country. Their foreign masters who behave with racism, based on the mindset of economic superiority (Middle Eastern Arabs, etc.) and/or presumptions of racial superiority according to where one stands in the color spectrum as in European Racism (Greeks, Australians, etc.);

Or in America, where Social Darwinism is covertly an accepted myth, colored people like us Filipino natives are not respected and are instead treated with much condescension, deceit, exploitation, with not much rights, with no bright future for themselves and (their families) in the countries they work, etc.; in short, our fellow native OFWs get slavish treatment in numerous instances. 

Of course, this is not just true abroad, as even resident local foreigners, i.e. many local Chineserecently arrived Koreans, etc. behave similarly against us Filipino natives, in OUR own homeland, and WE ALLOW THEM!!!

It is the fault of our rulers from Marcos time till today. They --the ruling elite in government, military and business, with their foreign partners-- all rule for their own selfish agenda and at the expense of the ignorant native Filipino citizens; illiterate thus ignorant native citizens because these rulers want it to remain that way for the native Filipino majority. The foreigners and foreign companies (transnationals) want it that way; so they can freely come in unopposed to further exploit our cheap labor and non-replenishable natural resources/patrimony, take total control of our national economy and hoard out of our homeland all their profits. 

We the so-called educated allow it because we are deeply "class-conscious, selfish individualists," and are either afraid to question the ruling regime or because we desire to join the ranks of our ruling elite.

"I either want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it." - Ashleigh Brilliant, 1933

 "The accomplish to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference." - Bess Myerson, 1924-present

Below is a recent article by Walden Bello from his recent trip to the Middle East.

Also the following three (3) news articles and a video on Filipino rape victims in Saudi Arabia (point & click the following URLs to open/read):

- Bert

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

- Walden Bello

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina (1898)

He was an officer in the Saudi Royal Navy assigned to the strategic Saudi base of Jubail in the Persian Gulf, and he wanted to hire a maid. 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 last 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.
The tale of woe recounted by Lorena (not her real name) was one of several stories of rape and sexual abuse shared by domestic workers with members of a fact-finding team of the Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs of the House of Representatives.of the Philippines. The high incidence of rape and sexual abuse visited on the women we met in the shelters run by the Philippine government for runaway or rescued domestic workers in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Al Khobar most likely reflects a broader trend among Filipina 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 working conditions of many domestics, which include 18-22 hour days and violent beatings, cannot but be described except as virtual slavery. Saudi Arabia abolished slavery by royal decree in 1962, but customs are hard to overcome. Royal and aristocratic households continue to treat domestic workers as slaves, an d 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 young women from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, and other labor-sending Asian countries unwittingly step into when recruitment agencies place them in Saudi homes.
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 faces and heads uncovered, stand a good chance of becoming sexual prey. This is true particularly if they make the mistake of being seen in public alone -- though the company of a friend did not prevent the teenagers from snatching Fatimah. 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. Perhaps as a result of the institutionalized repression of Saudi women and their strict subordination to males, Saudi society is suffused with latent sexual violence, much more so than most other societies.

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. On hearing her story, they gave her a sim card and pitched in to buy her phone time.
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. The wife 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 During 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. He even 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.

Decision Point

Other governments have begun to take drastic steps to protect their citizens in Saudi Arabia.  Owing to numerous cases of abuses of its nationals, India has banned the deployment women under 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 Arabia, legal and illegal recruiters, many of them tied to Saudi interests, have been trying to step it up. The new Aquino administration may soon reach a critical decision point on the issue of Saudi recruitment since the amended Act on Overseas Workers requires the 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, Saudi Arabia will not likely be certified.
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.” 
recommended citation:
Walden Bello, "Sexual Prey in the Saudi Jungle " (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, February 1, 2011)


nadia takrouri said...

i'm also a victim of gang raped in jeddah,ksa last april 20,2009.they are six saudi teen agers....they were sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and will receive 2,500 lashes about me??????where is my private rights???? it would almost two years next month and nothing happen.....i heard that some of the accused were out of jail already...PLEASE GIVE ME A JUSTICE OR GIVE ME DEATH!!!!!!!!!!

Karen said...

The case of sexual abuse suffered by women in Arab countries are increasing at an alarming rate. The Saudi government should be more stringent in its implementations of policies especially to rules concerning the rights of foreign laborers.