There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution.
Afzal travelled from Bangladesh to Kuwait to follow his wife who had been working abroad for three years. Afzal was sent to do housework where he experienced threats, beatings and sexual violence at the hands of his employer and her sons.
I married at 21 because I loved my wife. I never had sexual problems with her or with anyone before going to Kuwait.
In 1996, my mother-in-law who had been in Kuwait for many years sent a visa for my wife. I did not agree but my in-laws thought it was a good idea. I did not have the power to oppose their decision because I could not properly feed my wife. We were very poor.
After leaving, my wife did not keep in touch with me and she sent me very little money. She just sent enough for our two daughters.
We had a good relationship before she left. After going abroad, she became very 'clever' (chalak). It is true that here her life was difficult and over there she could live in comfort. After 3 years, she came back but she stayed only 20 days. I had hardly any time alone with her.
I really wanted to know why she changed so much, what she did abroad, where she stayed, etc. I found her address through someone and decided to go and see for myself. People said many things about her but I did not want to believe them.
I sold my father's land and went to Kuwait for 90,000 taka. I was sent to do housework. My salary was only 30 KD (lower than maids). I lived outside my employer's residence with 3 Bangladeshi men.
My employer was a widow. She had 3 daughters and 4 sons. The 3 elder sons were from her co-wife who had died. The first 2 months, I had no problem. Then, the eldest son (a 32 year old unmarried man) started to do bad things to me. He got me to masturbate him and…. If I did not agree, he beat me and threatened to send me back to Bangladesh. I was terrified. The first day, when he came and asked me to do these things, I was stunned. Sometimes, they came in a group, at other times, he came alone. They did this to me standing, lying, and sitting, from the back and from the front. The way a cow is held to be sacrificed, they held me in the same way to do this work. They did not even lock the door. Other Bangladeshi boys saw me in those positions and later insulted me. I felt such shame.
The mother also used me. That was embarrassing at first. I was afraid it got known but no one spoke. What kind of country is this? I liked having sex with the woman. She invited me inside. The door was closed and she was discrete. For a long time, I had not had sex with my wife, so that was good. She also gave me baksheesh. With her, I was not forced.
But in the end, she did not like me anymore. I was nervous and I ejaculated immediately. I got baksheesh from the mother for four months. The last 2 months, she did not want me anymore.
Boys came to me everyday. I cried. Out of disgust, I stopped eating. In the end, I got sick but I did not have the ability to get treated. Sores appeared on my penis, something like pus came out. I had fever and felt like vomiting. I felt weak and dizzy. After 8 months, I returned to Bangladesh. I could have stayed if these boys had not tortured me like this.
Narrative provided by Childhub