Kuwaiti social media influencer Sondos Al-Qattan earned the ire of the public after expressing her dismay on government regulations that allow overseas Filipino workers to keep their passports and have one rest day per week.
In a video released on Instagram last July 10, Al-Qattan said (translated into English):
“The new laws that have been passed are pathetic. Honestly, I disagree. For [a maid] to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her.”
“How can you have a ‘servant’ in your house who gets to keep their passport with them? And what’s worse is they have one day off every week.”
“If they ran away and went back to their country, who’ll refund me? Honestly, I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”
Kuwaiti beauty influencer Sondos Alqattan posts another controversial video on her snapchat about Filipino domestic workers.
Posted by TRT World on Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Her controversial remarks have led to cosmetic brands dropping her as an endorser.
Despite the criticism, Al-Qattan remains unapologetic, saying that she has the right to keep her employer’s passport based on their “Kafala System.”
The “Kafala System” allows Middle Easterns to exert “ownership” over their migrant workers. Media outlets and citizens have described it as a form of “modern-day slavery.”
This is Sondos Alqattan, the face of a modern day master of slaves. She believes Filipino domestic helpers should not be given days off nor have possession of their own passports.#sondosalqattan#StopSlaveryhttps://t.co/6KlzedrTsR
— Sometimes (@TalkativeAko) July 21, 2018
Saw a video about a beauty blogger from Kuwait complaining about her Filipino maid’s 1 day off and how she’s able to keep her passport. These people are here to help you! They’re not your slave! They’re human beings too! Get out of here with that modern day slavery B.S.
— Baela (@Hello_KaylaM) July 23, 2018
Al-Qattan was referring to the agreement signed between the Philippines and Kuwait last May allowing OFWs to keep their passports and have rest days.
The document, titled “Agreement on the Employment of Domestic Workers between the Philippines and Kuwait,” was a result of a diplomatic row that occurred over the abuse of Filipino workers and the death of one OFW.
It calls for Kuwait to provide OFWs with food, clothing, health insurance and standard labor contracts. Filipinos are also entitled to use their cellphones, keep their passports and have a day off.
The problem with the blogger’s remarks
Filipino Marita Margaret said on Twitter that Al-Qattan has no right to “belittle anyone.”
She pointed out that Filipinos sacrifice a lot when they work overseas and there have been many reports of abuse from foreign employers.
According to her, “I really do hope that you realize how much our fellow Filipinos go through. The mere thought of them leaving their family and safety for money is [like] being enslaved already.”
She went on to say that “thousands of Filipinos are abused” in their duration of overseas employment, adding that they are “raped” and “bruised” physically, emotionally and mentally.
“And they choose to stay, to think of their families at home and just get through it. I hope you don’t go through what they had gone through… They deserve at least some time off work… Do you imagine how that short time would change their lives?” Margaret said.
Reports of Filipinos being abused in Kuwait have resulted in President Rodrigo Duterte ordering a deployment ban in April, although it is now currently lifted.
Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher, observed, “Kuwait should confront the outcry over deaths, beatings, and rapes of domestic workers by taking immediate steps to reform the kafala system, which traps workers with abusive employers.”