JEDDAH, 23 March 2005 — A 25-year-old Indonesian woman who came to Saudi Arabia as a guest worker will have several of her fingers, toes and part of her right foot amputated because of gangrene after being tied up for a month in a bathroom by her Saudi sponsor, who also apparently beat her severely, injuring her eye and knocking several of her teeth out.
The reason given was that the woman, who worked as a maid, had not finished cleaning the house.(Continued)
So it takes something as extreme as gangrene to have the press actually make a stink about made abuse and for the govt. to take action (or so they claim). I want to weep everytime I read about such suffering particularly when it is always painted as the maid's fault. It is clear even in Bahrain, that gender ideology, gendered work, racist and class based hierarchies and global migration have interlocked in the most sickening ways. I can't stand that we don't even have a vocabulary or language of human rights in this country forget attempts to mobilize against such incidents. While these women are trying to support families back home faced with men who have failed them in adapting to changing divisions of labour in our capitalist economies, they come to the Gulf and their bodies are orientalized and sexualized. They have become the ground on which men violently assert their power against the threat of women's work, against the "foreigners" they must depend on and on which existing power structures are maintained.
Although the GDN does report these incidents frequently, I believe it is as guilty of maintaining the discourse these women have been inserted into by the reductive, sensationalist, and insensitive frame in which they report these 'facts'. Everytime Mohammed Aslam reports on the lates "sex romp" between a maid and her lover, he merely reinforces the sterotypes of these women as threats to the purity of the nuclear family which must lazily depend on them because men in Bahrain refuse to recognize that since the family now requires two incomes, women cannot magically be expected to do housework, look after children and have an office job without men adjusting their roles. Aslam also speaks of these women's "immorality" without recognizing that they are literally prisoners of their employers. He and other reporters add to the dehumanization of maids when they make it seem unusual for maids to have freedom of movement and the freedom to form relationships like the rest of us in Bahrain do. How many of us get prosecuted or deported for having sex lives, leaving our homes to meet with male friends? It gets worse when we start breaking down how these maids are stereotyped by nationality - Filipina women are the most sexualized and perceived as manipulative seductresses while South Asian maids are painted as more passive and quitely sneaky (ex. - the Bangladeshi one with the labourer who is her lover).
I don't know where I was going with all that..... I just get extremely frustrated and horrified at the circular, reductive discussions that take place (if at all and I initiate them) when I'm back in Bahrain...because people refuse to question even the most basic of assumptions and myths about women's work and men's work, why these categories even exist, what challenges global migration poses particularly for women in developing countries, the unique race and class strata we have in the Gulf, why it exists, what the 'rationale' behind it is, what its history is and how material conditions have created such a demographic situation.