Fadlallah: living God’s command to protect the weak
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 5, 2008
Once again, I am delighted to report that Lebanon’s most well-known Shia cleric, Hussein Fadlallah, has stepped up to the plate with a religious legal ruling that prohibits abuse of domestic workers. Most Gulf states deny that their nationals mis-treat foreign domestic workers, calling instances of abuse isolated cases. And Lebanon’s legal system shoves the issue under the rug altogether, by excluding domestic workers from the category of “worker” – denying them the right to demand the minimum wage, sue their workers in court or claim abuse.
The article below comes from today’s Daily Star, and L’Orient-Le Jour reported the same news earlier this week. Fadlallah has been a pioneer in issuing progressive fatwas, including one last year that told women that they had the right to defend themselves if their husbands, brothers or fathers tried to beat them. He has also issued a ruling prohibiting honor killings, and stating that men who consider the honor of their families to reside in their daughters’ virginity should be ashamed of themselves.
Not all domestic workers are mis-treated, of course. But those who are find little sympathy and few avenues toward justice.
Here’s the article:
Senior Shiite cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah issued a fatwa, or religious edict, on Thursday urging employers to refrain from resorting to physical violence,sexual harassment and unjust actions against foreign domestic workers.
There are roughly 200,000 domestic workers, mostly from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and the Philippines, working in Lebanon. There is also a large, predominantly male, Syrian population who mostly work as day laborers.A great number of domestic workers are employed as live-in maids and are often forced to work long hours with out a weekly break or sufficient food.A 2006 survey conducted in Lebanon by Dr. Ray Jureidini of 600 migrant domestic workers found that 56 percent worked more than 12 hours a day and 34 percent were not allowed regular time off.
A statement issued last Tuesday by leading rights group Human Rights Watch spoke of “the urgent need” to improve the working and living conditions of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, saying that “at least” 95 women had died between January 1, 2007, and August 15, 2008. Many had died as a result of abuse or while trying to escape their employers, it said.
Fadlallah stressed that such unethical treatment was an indication of social,educational,and legal disorder within Lebanon.
Remarking on the many other forms of abuse migrant domestic workers faced in Lebanon, Fadlallah pointed to the “sale” of workers to other Lebanese. More often than not, this takes place without the consent of the worker concerned, he said.It also forces female domestic workers to assume the role of the mother in raising the children of her employers, he said.
Such actions were religiously and legally forbidden, said Fadlallah, who urged Lebanese authorities to assume their responsibility in imposing the law.
“These forms of exploitation are not only unethical but could also pressure the worker into committing suicide or harming themselves,” the cleric said.
His statement added that “racial considerations” were no excuse to treat workers as “second-class human beings,” and said such mentalities should be corrected. He also urged that employers be legally bound to the durations stipulated in the employees’ work contracts.
Among the other reasons for violence committed against migrant workers was the issue of political and security conflict between Lebanon and the workers’ country of origin, said the statement in an indirect reference to Syrian workers.
“This kind of behavior could drive any country to resort in the future to such action against immigrants in the event of political instability in their country of origin,” added Fadlallah.