Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The neighbour's maid

Looks after an adorable child named A.

A has Down's Syndrome. He's a really sweet kid, and spends a lot of time at our house playing with the princess and generally being cute. Like all children with Down's, A can be hard work and he is truly blessed to have a woman as wonderfull as the maid in his life. Both parents have good jobs with reputed companies. They pay thier maid 60 rials a month, and she works seven days a week. She's been working with them for more than five years I think. Stone works for the same company as his mother.

The Maid Claims to have been attacked, sexually, by the man of the house last week when the wife was away overnight. She beat him off, but has a couple of nasty briuses to show for it.

Stone and I have offered to assist, but she feels that no one would belive her, and that there is little we could do that would improve her long-term situation. Though I disagree, I understand where she is coming from. Her family back home counts on her remittances.

When the wife came home, the maid explained what had happened, and asked to be released to work elsewhere. The wife said her husband is a good man, that she shouldn't tell such lies, and took the maid's phone away. They already keep her passport. The maid would really like to be released to work with a family that pays her what she's worth, and doesn't attempt coerced sex as an unpaid benefit. That's not asking much is it?

Tonight, as we were sitting down to dinner, A's father showed up at our gate having a bone to pick with Stone. He was very angry, and said that he has a serious problem with our housemaid. (We pay the housemaid really well, because she is worth every baiza and because as any other human she diserves to work for a living wage) He is Outraged, Outraged, that our housemaid told his housemaid what she is getting paid, and that now his housemaid has the audacity to want to quit her job. God forbid. And He wanted Stone to knock some sense into our "troublesome" housemaid.

I don't know if the guy was drunk, though he was acting pretty strangely. I don't know what went on behind closed doors at the neighbour's house. I don't know what the inter/intra housmaid socio-economic equations add up to, but I do know that this guy is out of his fucking mind rolling up to our house with that attitude, thinking that the root cause of his problems in life can be traced to Stone, Me or the housemaid.

I am so ashamed that guys like him live here in my neighborhood, or in this country. I am so angry at his wife's apparent complicity. I am so heartbroken for the maid, and for the little boy who adores her.

I had been outside for a minute or two at this point, and said that if the maid wanted to quit, that his best bet was to let her quit. Because you don't own people. ( We here in oman are done with Slave trading these days, though it seems the message has been slower reaching some than others) The guy looks right over my head and says he it talking to the boss, meaning Stone.

That was a mistake.

To say I went ape-shit would be something of an understatement. I was incandescent. I told him to get off my fucking property this instant or I would call the police, and that I was planing on speaking to his wife first thing in the morning, and that Stone would be speaking to her in the office after that.

Advice? Comments?

12 comments:

MMK080 said...

U know who the real victim in all of this? The poor kid with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome children are very peaceful, this is one of their shared attributes, and they r so innocent. This should not be happening to the poor kid who got used to his maid, he will go into shock once she leaves... He will!

But I don't blame the maid for wanting to leave, there was an attempt by her boss to have his way with her. Although, I have to admit, money could be a very good motive to lie in order to get released from a low paying job and she could have just bruised herself and made that stuff up.

She shouldn't be forced to work there if she doesnt want to though, but in the gulf generally this, sadly, is very common. We know they need the work, we also know they would even accept dirt cheap salaries because they r desperate and sadly the mentality is that it will be crazy if we didnt pay them the absolute minimum, it would be 'tabtheer' or 'wasteful'... what's wasteful is our lack of use concsiousness when it comes to treating other human beings like this. The good news is, we are getting better, already minimum wage laws are springing up everywhere in the Gulf states and its a start...

My advice? Do not tell the neighbour's wife... Nothing good will come out of it, she will not believe u two because A) this is her husband, how could she live with him if she did believe that? B) Because she can't do anything about it...

In my opinion there is nothing much u or ur husband can do but ignore the neighbours from now on...

Anonymous said...

I just started reading your blog and find it to be hilarious, but this is just really sad. I personally would probably believe the maid's story, especially after reading about the guy's reaction to you merely speaking to him. He seems to have issues with women. And whether or not the wife actually believes the maid, her reaction is very understandable in terms of denial and whatnot. I'm sure most women, maybe even you, would stick up for their husbands in such situations (at least pubicly they would, what goes on behind closed doors is another story). And just wondering, but did the alledged attack occur before or after your housekeeper talked to the maid about what she is being paid?
And just another question, but where is 60 rials on the pay scale (minimum wage, medium?) Sorry for the questions :)

But mmk080 is right. The child is probably very attached to this lady. He spends probably all day with her. So if she goes it will be quite a huge change and adjustment for him to make. Poor thing.

Suburban said...

mmk-

I agree, Down's Kids are fantastic, and A is the sweetest of the sweet. And he's also a Victim, don't get me wrong.

WHile I think it's within the realm of possibility that the maid invented the story, I think She's telling the truth.

Sexual Assualt is a very serious allegation. And one that is embarassing to talk about.

Thanks so much for yout input.

Anon-

Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

The issue of quitting came after the attack, as far as I am aware. After the attack, the husband offered her a raise, from 50 RO to 60 RO per month. Such generosity.

I would say that RO 60 is about the minimum that one would pay a housemaid, give or take. I think the average is about RO 80 per month.

We pay ours more than double that and offer her the full expatriate benefits that you would expect in a skilled profession. She is the best housemaid in the entire world.

HijabIsOverrated said...

He sounds like a real jerk. he deserves some kind of bizarre, yet extremely cool punishment like...
uh...

some one should burn string beans until they're crisp as nails..

get an African blow dart and hit him with them as he leaves for work. lololololol

(Death by string beans).. dayum I'm corny... lol

It's going to be so stressful trying to ignore your neighbors.

I'm concerned for the maid too, because they are the easiest ones to get revenge on.

Outsider said...

Suburban,
I haven't been in Oman for a great deal of time, but its not my first time in the region, and I've studied the language and culture quite a bit, so I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile what I've read and learned with what I've seen and heard here and elsewhere in the region. I've heard a number of stories like this one from friends and coworkers.

To me, it falls into a larger pattern of absurd behaviors by a small, but significant minority that really give everyone a black eye. Some will take great exception to this as very patronizing, but I think that the only way to "fix" some of these issues is for people like you to call others on their ridiculousness. To me, it seems that there is very little enforcement of social norms beyond the very superficial, such as wearing proper clothing. God forbid someone goes out scantily clad, but many will turn a blind eye to what the neighbor is doing to the maid as its not their business.

The problem is that you probably aren't going to get a lot of backing from anyone else, so you'll just be the crazy woman meddling in this guy's affairs, but it has to start somewhere.

It is again problematic and patronizing to compare societies, but in many places, someone in a situation like yours would simply call the cops, they'd come, sic social services on the family and the situation would be sorted out. The solutions aren't ideal, but just the threat of that will curb behaviors in some places.

Across the range of absurdities, they'll never stop if people continue to accept them. For instance, no one cuts in a supermarket line in some cities that I've lived in because doing so will at a minimum get you serious verbal abuse, and at a maximum get you beat down or in some "hoods" killed. As long as (a) a minority thinks that they can do whatever the hell they want with no consequences and (b) no one calls them on it, people will continue to act like assholes, from cutting queue to abusing their maids. Very different degrees of wrong, but they both require social enforcement to be stopped.

So, please don't do anything that will put yourself in a dangerous situation, but I hope that you can find the resources that will force this (fill in your pejorative) to stop abusing others (you, his maid, his son, and his wife).

AlexOverseas said...

A couple of random thoughts:

- A woman who can work in the those circumstances and be kind and patient to a special-needs child should be making hundreds of rials a month and thanked on an hourly basis, not treated like this.

- Is she in touch with her embassy? Increasingly, I understand, the embassies of the most common nationalities of domestics are getting more involved in trying to deal with this kind of abuse. Perhaps you could quietly help her make contact.

Anonymous said...

Messing around with the maid when they need her so much just means they are morons.

HijabIsOverrated said...

Did you talk to the wife or had your husband talk to her? I was thinking maybe you might want to hold off and figure out the neighbors level of wasta 1st.

Undercover Dragon said...

Lots of good comments. I have little to add. Except I wonder, in the current inflation/dollar collapse situation, how many of Oman's domestic staff have had a pay rise in the last 10 years?
50 rials was the going rate for maids working for locals when I was here 12 years ago...

Anonymous said...

my dear suburban,

the best thing you could do is find this maid a job: just post her details on an al fair board or ask around, and then she doesn't have to lose her income when she leaves her present hellhole. she can only gain. then, if they don;t release her/ give her her passport, she/ you can go to the police, have a valid reason, and move on. simple? or am i being too naive?

Anonymous said...

hi suburban,
this is such a sad post. when i was growing up, i remember my father had to go get our passports from the company before we could travel. I thought this made perfect sense, not having known any better. now, living in the US, i think it is such a demeaning practice for somebody else to hold on to your passport, and requiring their permission to leave/travel. I especially feel for the expats in housemaid/helper roles, some of them are treated like cattle but they put up with it, not knowing any better like when i was a child. not trying to sound patronizing, just that many of these people don't have options.
the poor maid's best hope is her embassy. assholes like your neighbor surely don't comprehend human dignity or empathy and i doubt he is going to have a change of heart about her pay or work environment.
if the maid is able to move to a better opportunity, do post here to let us know that there is a happy ending after all.

Suburban said...

Thanks so, so, so, so much for the thoughtful comments.

It apears that the situation had been resolved. I've updated on the maid's situation on the main page.

WHich only leaves me to question, what the hell is wrong with my neighbourhood? What could possibly be next?