Lawyers concerned at rise in domestic violence cases between sponsors and maids

A series of cases in recent months have brought the relationship between maids into the spotlight, with one prosecutor saying the cases "will never stop"

ABU DHABI // Top prosecutors and lawyers have raised concerns about the increasing number of cases of domestic violence involving sponsors and housemaids.

A series of cases in recent weeks have brought the relationship between employers and maids into the spotlight, with one prosecutor saying the cases “will never stop”.

Last week a 15-year jail sentence was upheld by Dubai Court of Cassation for a woman who subjected two of her maids to such appalling torture that one of them died.

In another case currently going through Dubai Criminal Court, a maid is accused of killing the 11-month-old daughter of an Indian couple after being refused leave to attend her mother’s funeral. The National also reported last month the case of an Ethiopian maid who allegedly tried to kill her Emirati sponsor’s three children with a machete.

The head of family prosecution at Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution, Mohammed Al Danhani, said there were 19 cases that involved attacks by maids and drivers against children last year.

“These cases are increasing and they will never stop,” he said. “In previous years, we did not even have statistics for them because we hardly received any.”

He said a fair number of cases had already been received this year, too, but figures are only calculated at the end of the year.

Most attacks carried out by maids are physical assaults, Mr Al Danhani said, as opposed to sexual attacks, which are mostly carried out by men. “About two attacks by maids were sexual only,” he said, adding that abuse often went hand in hand with a lack of monitoring by parents.

“When the maid knows she is not being observed and will not be discovered, that gives her another reason,” he said. “She is human, even myself, if every child of mine runs around the house committing mischief, I will get upset.

“So for her she would just slap the child to silence him and no one will find out.”

He said hidden surveillance cameras were a good way of spotting any problems: “Most of the cases we received were discovered by surveillance cameras.”

Abu Dhabi lawyer Ali Al Abbadi said cases of maids being abused, and specifically tortured to death by sponsors, have increased.

He highlighted several cases, including that of a maid who was beaten to death by her Emirati sponsor and neighbour using a frying pan, another who had boiling water poured over her and another maid who was drowned by her sponsor in the bathtub.

Yet despite concerns that cases are on the rise, some are not convinced. Lt Col Ahmed Al Merri, of Dubai Police CID, said cases of maids harming their sponsors were rare but he urged employers to treat maids well.

“These cases of murder and abuse involving domestic workers are very rare,” he said. “However, it’s very important that those who have a maid treat her well. Don’t be late to pay their salaries, do not overwork them, especially in summer.

“Some people will tell you that they don’t pay their maid for three or four months to make sure she doesn’t run away, but what these sponsors need to remember is that those maids’ ... families depend on them. They have a whole lot depending on them, including maybe their children’s education.”

Judge Jamal Abdul Majeed, who has worked at Dubai Court of Misdemeanors for five years, said that he had not dealt with any case in which a maid had been charged with endangering a child’s safety or causing harm or injury. He said a few cases had been seen by colleagues but not enough for him to believe that there were a significant number of cases overall.

He added that the high cost of nurseries affected families’ decisions when it came to childcare.

“Making the nurseries less expensive would be a great alternative to maids – and to hiring an illegal maid,” he said.

Lt Col Al Merri offered some advice to parents of children who are looked after by maids.

“Keep your eyes and ears open when you come back from work,” he said. “Monitor the child’s behaviour towards the nanny.

“A smart mother will notice whether her child is doing well with the nanny by how the little one interacts with the nanny. Do they willingly approach them or do they get upset when they get told to go with the nanny?

“Putting a camera in the home should be a last resort, and why live in a state of paranoia?”

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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