If there is one country, where a troubling Human Rights record remains undisputed, that is Saudi Arabia. When I happened to read two seemingly paradoxical news articles published by the Daily Mirror on the same day, SL maid to be stoned to death; ministry files appeal[i] and SL keen on sending skilled workers to Saudi: Envoy[ii] it seemed little has changed since Rizvana was executed in 2013[iii]. My heart sank to see we are sending more workers, skilled or unskilled, when we should be protesting these executions by not sending anyone at all. See how they handle the labor shortage then. Changes following protests in 2013 were clearly inadequate.
Domestic servitude continues to be modern day slavery. Unfortunately, it also happens to be a main source of foreign income for a developing nation such ours.
Given the track record of Saudi Arabia in particular, perhaps our government can be pressured more, to leverage more. Despite attempts at improving the situation of our people, it clearly shows, not enough is being done. Migrant workers, especially our maids, remain the most vulnerable to exploitation and appalling inhumane conditions[iv]
Recently, Sri Lankans have shown a sense of renewed social justice and appetite for social media activism. Perhaps we can focus on real issues, such as these, instead of campaigning against the abstract injustices of the hypocrisy of the West or Facebook discussions about profile pictures.
Another half baked thought, was perhaps the need to look at a more regulated domestic labour industry in Sri Lanka itself. Perhaps, if our society was not so stingy about paying a livable wage to our domestic help, they would not have to resort to paying vulture like middle men to get them forged documents and visas to go abroad. No matter how terrible Sri Lanka might be, at least they won’t get beheaded! These migrants are fleeing the lesser evil that is their day to day realities, to give their children a better future. They end up victims of large interest loan sharks, and unscrupulous agencies that care very little about these individuals. The result is that we are faced with a society where mothers are forced to leave children behind, and the results of these actions have been well documented.
These are complicated, pressing issues. A few more articles, if you are interested are below, for further reading if the topic interests you.
Some hope but not good enough
[i] "SL Maid to Be Stoned to Death; Ministry Files Appeal." Daily Mirror Online, November 18, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2015. http://www.dailymirror.lk/95867/sl-maid-to-be-stoned-to-death-ministry-files-appeal.
[ii] "SL Keen on Sending Skilled Workers to Saudi: Envoy." Daily Mirror Online, November 18, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2015. http://www.dailymirror.lk/95799/sl-keen-on-sending-skilled-workers-to-saudi-envoy.
[iii] "Saudi Arabia Executes Sri Lankan Maid." The New York Times. January 9, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/saudi-arabia-executes-sri-lankan-maid/?_r=0.
[iv] "A Maid’s Execution - The New Yorker." The New Yorker. January 11, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-maids-execution.