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Shanika R.

2006 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 61,000 people living in modern slavery in Saudi Arabia (GSI 2018). It is a source and destination country for men and women trafficked from South and South East Asia and Africa. People voluntarily migrate to the country to work in a variety of sectors including construction and domestic service; many of these workers are vulnerable to forced labour. Traffickers and brokers often illegally recruit migrants to work in Saudi Arabia and subsequently forced them into domestic servitude or debt bondage. Female domestic workers are particularly at risk of trafficking due to their isolation inside private residences. Non-payment or late payment of wages remains a complaint from foreign workers, while employer's withholding of worker's passports remains a significant problem. Trafficking perpetrators include businesses of all sizes, private families, recruitment companies in both Saudi Arabia and labor-sending countries, and organized criminal elements.

Shanika R., a Sri Lankan domestic worker, travelled to Saudi Arabia for work but was trafficked into domestic servitude. When she requested her salary, her employer shaved her head. She was subjected to physical violence and threats.

I told [my employer], ‘I have a small child, please give me my salary….’ I asked for my salary, and they shaved my head completely bald…. Whenever I asked for my salary, they would cut my hair, but the last time they shaved my head.

[My female employer] also cut my finger. She also cut both of my ears. She gave me Clorox to drink…. It was scary! She threatened to kill me. She said after Ramadan, she will kill me…. I got scared and ran away. I was not supposed to say anything when she yelled at me. I had to keep my hands down. I was not supposed to raise my hand until she was done beating me. [My employers] got scared that I will run away and locked me in the bathroom for three days. They removed my fingernails.


Narrative credit to Human Rights Watch

Original Narrative can be found in Human Rights Watch Report “As If I am Not Human”: Abuses Against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia