The United Arab Emirates is a destination for men and women predominantly from South and Southeast Asia, trafficked for the purposes of labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Migrant workers make up over 90 per cent of the UAE’s private sector workforce and are recruited from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, China, and the Philippines. Though some travel willingly, they are subjected to conditions of modern slavery including withholding of passports, non-payment of wages, restrictions of movement and threats of physical and sexual abuse. Trafficking of domestic workers is facilitated by the fact that normal protections for workers under UAE labour laws do not apply to domestic workers, leaving them more vulnerable to abuse.
Arti L. travelled from Indonesia and gained work as a domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates. Arti L. was subjected to physical and sexual abuse frequently and was raped by her male employer in July 2013 when he took her to clean a second house he had purchased. Arti L. managed to escape several days after this incident and attempted to file charges against her employer.
He [the sponsor] slapped me and banged my head on the wall, then spit on me. He beat me with a cable on my back and put a knife to my face. After beating me up he left. [Later] Some of the family asked, “Why you have bruises?” I was afraid if I tell I will get beaten up again.
[Later Arti L. was raped by her male employer after he took her to clean a second house]
I fight him, I was screaming but there is no one around. He slapped me. When he finish he put on his clothes and left me in the room and locked me in. I went into the bathroom and cleaned myself. I came back and he took me back to the house. I was crying all night. Madam said, “What happened to you? Why are you crying?” I wasn’t given time to speak, he said, “Go to your room.”
[She managed to escape her employer a few days later]
Normally, the front door is locked but this time the keys were on the door. I ran away with blood on my panties. I was bleeding badly.
[She tried to file charges against her employer for rape, but after not hearing from the court for four months she decided to abandon the case to go back to Indonesia]
It’s been a long time. I want to withdraw the case... Now... [I am] trying to get my salary. But he will get away because I am not suing him.
As told to researchers for Human Rights Watch