Jessica Jones, Programs Assistant
With 24 nails and one needle drilled into her hands, legs and forehead, Daneris Ariyawathie made the long journey across the Arabian Sea back to her home in Sri Lanka in early September to receive medical attention from the physical abuse she endured on her job. Like many women in Sri Lanki, Daneris sought what she thought to be an auspicious employment opportunity and immigrated to Saudi Arabia in March of 2010 in order to work as a domestic worker. When she complained about her grueling workload, her employers physically reprimanded her, forcing nails and needles, some up to 5cm long, into her body.
Domestic workers are an especially vulnerable demographic of the migrant workers population as they lack the protections that most migrant workers receive under legal provisions such as weekly rest, salaries and health insurance. Employers seeking a domestic worker will sponsor the visa and appropriate paperwork for their domestic worker(s), giving the employer power over their work and immigration status, ultimately, entitling the employer to an unjust sense of ownership. After arriving in their new country, unbeknown, domestic workers are often confined to the house in which they work, sometimes even locked in, and their passports are confiscated. Additionally, because these sponsorship programs are so closely tied to the employers, the domestic workers have little hope for changing their employment status. In fact, in Saudi Arabia, domestic workers are excluded from the protection of labor laws, essentially allowing employers to exert complete control over their domestic workers. In the case of Daneris, Amnesty International had demanded that the Saudi Arabian government investigate this case; however, some evidence demonstrates that it was reported prior to Daneris' departure and the government neglected to move on the issue.