KUWAIT: A job opportunity in a faraway land turned into a nightmare for two Filipina domestic workers. Rhea and Flora came to Kuwait to work as housemaids in December last year, but found themselves in the clutches of a brutal employer in Andalus. According to them, for eight straight months, they experienced ‘hell’ at their workplace. They suffered months of brutality until they finally got the chance to escape in August.
Rhea arrived in Kuwait on Dec 15, 2014, while Flora came a week later at the same employer’s house. Rhea first got a taste of her female employer’s cruelty two days after arrival. “I was beaten with a huge wooden paddle on my back only two days after starting work. My employer told me I was beaten because I worked slowly, but it didn’t end there – she kept up her cruel ways against us on a daily basis,” Rhea said. In Feb 2015, the employer inserted a spice bottle up Rhea’s private parts. “She did this as a form of punishment because I cleaned the bathroom slowly. She called me in the kitchen and told me to remove my underwear. When I refused, she grabbed me and forcibly removed my panties. She then inserted the bottle of spice up my private parts, but this wasn’t enough – she daubed the spices on my genitals,” Rhea narrated between sobs. “Because of that incident, I have no monthly period now – it just stopped. There was another brutal incident too. Once I cooked rice – you know we like to eat rice – but she got very angry about it and held a scissor over my head, saying she would cut my tongue. But she failed because I was shielding it, but she managed to cut my lips. I was bloodied and cried a lot,” Rhea added.
Flora also experienced brutal beatings and biting by her employer. “She shaved our hair twice. Both of us experienced the same brutality from our female employer – the eight months were very vicious. In fact, she also tried to gouge our eyeballs, pounded our hands and fingers and was happy seeing us scared and bloodied. We all have bite marks on our bodies, because for her this was normal,” Flora claimed, showing scars on her hands and back. Rhea has tens of scars as well, including deformed fingers. “She wanted to see blood on our bodies – she was happy seeing us in pain,” Flora said. “If we were slow in our work, she would bring us to the veranda, tell us to prepare ice water, remove our dresses and pour the water on us in between beatings,” she added.
The woman employer’s husband is a top security officer and according to the two housemaids, he was very kind, but scared of his wife. “The baba would shout at us, but would explain later that he did so to spare us from harsh torture by our madam,” Flora said. The two were able to escape on August 8, 2015 when her employer went abroad and they were temporarily placed with the employer’s relative. “We were able to run away on August 8 and went straight to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. On August 9, they transferred us to the Assistance to Nationals Unit (ATNU).
After we fled, the employer called our husbands and told them that we had run away with our boyfriends, but she didn’t know we had contacted our family already and they knew the real story,” Flora narrated. Asked why they didn’t try to escape and report the matter to authorities while at their employer’s house, Rhea said they wished they could have escaped, but the entire house was surrounded with a fence and the gates were locked. There was no way out.
They contacted their local agency many times too to report the abuses, but they were rebuffed. “At first they told us to hold on and stay at the employer’s house. Then they told us to pay the full amount spent by employer, and if I didn’t have the amount, I must stay,” Flora said. In order to hire a Filipina housemaid, an employer must spend about KD 1,000. After almost a year at the house, Rhea received only three months’ salary, while Flora received two months’ salary.
After two months at the embassy fighting their case, the housemaids were brought to Andalus police station by ATNU Officer Mar Hassan. The two accuse Hassan of allegedly settling their case in exchange for money from their employer. “We thought that our case was progressing well. At 5 pm on September 21, the two of us were brought to the police in Andalus by Mar Hassan, and left there overnight. We don’t know why, but we saw our employer there. Hassan told us that we were being deported because we had an absconding case filed against us and our dues would be sent home later.
We were shocked because we had a case filed in court, so why were we being deported without the resolution of the case? That night, a Kuwaiti come to us and told us to drop the case because we would lose the case anyway and only our lawyer will benefit. He told us to drop the case, go back home and the employer will pay whatever amount we need,” the two claimed. “We told Mar Hassan that we don’t want to stay in police custody, but he reminded us that we were being detained because of the absconding case. The following day, he came with our bags, indicating that maybe we would be deported soon. Thank God the vice consul came to our rescue and was able to take us back to the embassy,” Rhea said.
Hassan explained that the two housemaids were initially brought to the police station in Andalus in compliance with a request of the Ministry of Interior to present the victims so they could positively identify their employer. “This is part of the legal process in Kuwait. They also called the employer so to explain her side. I tried my best to bring them back after the procedure, but they had an absconding case filed against them, and as per the procedures in Kuwait, they had to be detained and we couldn’t do anything about it,” he said.
Asked if the allegations of a ‘settlement’ were true, Hassan denied it. “No, not true. I believe I was misunderstood in that context. I even told them not to sign any papers or documents without the embassy’s knowledge. I exerted a lot of effort to bring them back to the embassy. I had brought their bags so that they could change their clothes as the Eid holidays were almost upon us, and I was assuming they would be detained for a while,” he explained.
By Ben Garcia