8 Common Forms of Domestic Helper Abuse in Saudi Arabia

One of the most common misfortunes a domestic helper suffers abroad is abuse. It began even before the time of Flor Contemplacion until the present where there are still numerous cases of domestic helper abuse that occasionally grab the headlines. An abuse occurs when there is inappropriate treatment of usage of an entity or individual, often done to unjustly gain benefit.

Abuse may occur in the form of physical, verbal cruelty, injury, battery, violation of rights, unjust practices, or it may extend to rape and other types of crimes and aggression. The following are some of the most common forms of abuses a domestic helper experiences abroad:

1. Physical abuse. This form of abuse occurs when a person intentionally injures or causes feelings of physical pain towards someone else. This type of abuse also includes kicking, lashing, slapping, and other forms of physical contact that can cause pain or injury to another person. An example of this is the incident that happened to a domestic helper named Pahima Alagai Palacasi. Her sponsor’s mother poured boiling water on her due to a simple misunderstanding.

2. Failure to pay wages on time. This is also another type of abuse that domestic helpers experience abroad. This happens when an employer fails to pay the employee’s salary on time. Delay in salary is defined (at least under Hong Kong’s domestic worker law) as not more than seven days after wage period. Whether this is done to teach her a lesson or not, still it is considered as a violation towards the right of domestic helper. Another common example is when an employer delays the payment of a domestic helper’s salary for damaging (albeit unintionally) objects at home.

3. Not providing sufficient privacy. This form of abuse happens when the employee is not given privacy to do things she wishes to do for himself or herself. For instance, an employer listens to the employee while communicating with friends and relatives, or an employee does not have enough privacy when changing clothes or taking rest.

4. Not providing adequate food. Every living organism needs food to survive. But there are employers who look down on domestic helpers as if they’re mere robots who work long hours without complaining, and because of this, they feed these helpers left over or expiring food. Or when granted ration, they are not enough to replenish energy expended during day-long household chores.

5. Failure to offer enough rest and day off. There are some employers that would like to make the most out of the wages they pay. Thus, they tend to coerce these domestic helpers to work day and night, and 7 days in a week and sometimes, with an off from work.


6. Failure to grant wages as agreed upon in contract. There are employers who do not want to pay the wage agreed upon as specified in the contract. Thus, upon arrival of the domestic helper, they make changes and state that the salary will be decreased. Domestic workers become helpless as they have virtually no option but to accept terms or face termination from job and start all over agian. This again is another form of exploitation which may not get reported to designated labor agencies.

7. Sexual harassment. This could be one of the most common type of abuse a domestic helper experiences. Yet, this is one of the most common abuse that is not reported to authorities as helpers are either afraid to lose their jobs or rather avoid instances of embarrassment. One of the many reasons is that its parameters are difficult to define. For instance, praising a person’s attire is not automatically harassment however remarking on attire in a sexual nature is. Another reason may be the victim is ashamed to go out in public, and or he or she was threatened by the perpetrator.

8. Depriving use of means of communication. There are employers that disallow employees to communicate with family and friends. An example is the confiscation of cellphones during work hours. An employee can be reprimanded for using one during working hours, but confiscating is another story.