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Chamali W.

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.

Sri Lankan domestic worker Chamali W. was trafficked to Saudi Arabia. She describes the sexual harassment she experienced form her employer’s two sons.

The first six or seven months they were nice to me, then they started to misbehave. They removed their trousers. They have pictures of naked girls on their mobile phone and they showed them to me.

The [employer’s adult son] asked for his mobile, all of a sudden he hugged me. I beat him with the iron, he threw the iron and grabbed my arm and dragged me to a separate room. My arm hit the wall, my arm had a bruise. He pushed me to the floor and removed all of my clothes. He raped me. I felt lifeless, I couldn’t get up, I felt so weak…. I reported to Mama, “I can’t work here anymore, please send me home.” Mama said, “You can’t leave halfway, finish your two years. Even if you are pregnant, I’ll take care of you.” They put me in my room and locked me there for four days. For four days I was locked in from the outside, I didn’t work. There was no way to get out, so I had to lie to them, I said, “I’ll work for you,” and then they allowed me out.

They examined me and proved that I was raped, but not pregnant. Since then, I haven’t stepped into a court at all…. The police have not given me any more information. I ask every two months. For the last six months, I have been staying here [at the embassy shelter]. I’ve taken a loan of 50,000 rupees [in Sri Lanka] with interest. My husband has no job, my father is sick. My husband’s mother is taking care of my child. I am not able to go back to Sri Lanka because the police case is still going on…. I’m clueless about what people are doing, about whether my employer’s son in jail. I have to go back home and pay my debt. If I left now and worked, I could do something about it…. I have wasted six months.


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