A video circulating on social media have shown a man dragging a woman by her hair and hitting her, ignoring her screams and distress calls. The man turned out to be the employer of the migrant domestic worker under the infamous kafala system.
According to Lebanese media, the Appellate Prosecution in the Mount Lebanon Governorate ordered the release of the man, as the worker did not file a complaint against him and said he did not mistreat her.
Issam Boujaoude, the mayor of Jouret el-Ballout, the town where the incident occurred, tried to justify the assault claiming that the “woman arrived at her employer’s house before attempting to escape the same night. She was subsequently caught and arrested, and then sent back to the employment office that she was registered with, while the man had his money returned to him.”
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement that the assault is only the tip of the iceberg of wide, unreported violations perpetuated by the kafala system, which opens the door to slavery-like abuses.
It is feared that the employer may have pressured the domestic worker and forced her to drop the suit and sign statements guaranteeing his release, Euro-Med Monitor added.
Thousands of domestic workers face abuse and ill-treatment in Lebanon due to the kafala system, which is characterized by racism and discrimination and provides fertile ground for violence against workers, Euro-Med Monitor said,
According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), an estimated 250,000 migrant domestic workers, mainly from African and Southeast Asian countries, work in Lebanon.
They are regulated by the kafala system, which has been widely described as exploitative. The workers are often emotionally, physically, and at times, sexually abused.
They are often not paid their wages, are forcibly confined, and made to work excessive hours without respite.
In September, the labour ministry adopted a new standard unified contract for domestic workers that guaranteed overtime pay, sick pay, annual leave, and the national minimum wage.
Most importantly, it allowed workers to leave employment without the consent of their employer.
But the new contract has not been implemented. It has been stalled by the Syndicate of the Owners of Recruitment Agencies and is currently under appeal.
“As a result, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon continue to suffer from a litany of abuses,” said Lama Fakih from HRW.