Maid Filmed Falling from a Window by Her Employer?

International news media are reporting that the maid's employer was arrested for filming the woman fall instead of helping her.

Published Apr 3, 2017

A woman in Kuwait has been arrested and accused of filming her screaming domestic worker falling from a seventh-story window instead of helping her, according to international media reports.

Agence France Presse reports the woman was detained for filming her maid, an Ethiopian national, hanging from a window and screaming for help. In the video, instead of coming to the maid's assistance, the woman continues filming and, according to multiple reports, can be heard saying, "Oh, crazy, come back".  The woman's hand slips, and then she falls onto an awning. (A separate video shows her being assisted off the awning by firefighters who had come to her rescue.)

The videos were posted to Twitter by reporter Jenan Moussa, who called the details surrounding the incident "sketchy" but said they should raise concerns about the treatment of domestic workers in the Arab world:

Paramedics took the woman to a hospital where she was diagnosed with a broken arm and bleeding to her nose and ear, according to reports.

The Kuwait Society for Human Rights condemned the incident and called for the woman's employer to be investigated in a 30 March 2017 statement:

The [Society] calls on the official bodies to quickly disclose the circumstances of the case and publish the results of the investigations with the Ethiopian worker and with the videotape and turn the case to the judiciary for its legal process.

A video purports to show the maid recuperating in a hospital bed posted by Ethiopian news agency Ecadf Ethiopia on 1 April 2017. Middle East Eye quotes the domestic worker saying she was not suicidal, but trying to escape an imminent murder attempt:

The lady put me in the bathroom and was about to kill me in the bathroom without anybody finding out, she would have thrown my body out like rubbish, so instead of staying there I went to save myself and then I fell.

We have reached out to the Kuwait Minister of the Interior for verification and further information on this incident, and have not yet heard back.

Rothna Bengun, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a 3 April 2017 report on the incident that the abuse of domestic workers in the Gulf nation has been an ongoing problem, even after it implemented measures to improve conditions:

This is not the first time a domestic worker – someone hired to clean, cook, and care for a household – attempted a dangerous escape or suicide. The Kuwaiti press often report such stories as “attempted suicides,” as with this recent incident. They don’t usually question whether these were suicide attempts or, rather, attempts to escape. In 2009, Human Rights Watch spoke to eight women who were reported as having “attempted suicide,” but who said they had really fallen from buildings trying to escape abuse or were pushed by their employers. No one has suggested that the employer in this incident was responsible for such abuse.

I have interviewed hundreds of domestic workers in the Gulf region. Many said their employers locked them inside, forced them to work excessive hours, and beat them. Some scrambled down or jumped off buildings to escape.

In 2015, Kuwait took steps to provide migrant domestic workers with labor rights, but it has not reformed the notorious kafala system, under which migrant workers cannot leave or change their employer without the employer’s permission. As a result, while domestic workers now have rights to a weekly day off, daily limits to their working hours, and overtime compensation – they can still be arrested for “absconding” if they escape from their employers, even abusive ones.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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