Qatar’s anti-trafficking draft law hailed, but compassion is still needed

April 21, 2011

Work-force agencies in Qatar have welcomed a proposed anti-trafficking law that would include domestic helpers, but said that regulating their working hours would be “very hard”.

“The proposed legislation seeks to restrict the working hours of a domestic helper to eight hours a day,” an agent said. “However, work for a domestic helper starts early in the morning and goes on until late in the night, so it is very difficult to have an eight-hour working routine for her. Even if a domestic helper is given rest in between her daily work, she will have to work for at least 12 hours. Maybe employers would pay domestic helpers overtime,” he said, quoted by Qatari daily The Peninsula.

Qatari officials this week said that an anti-human trafficking draft law that covers mistreating, abusing or forcing domestic helpers to work for long hours is ready and will be forwarded to the competent authorities for final approval.

Under the draft law, physically harassing helpers, assaulting them or forcing them to work in harsh conditions without allowing them weekly holidays are crimes that come within the purview of the proposed legislation.

Several agencies said that the new law would also protect their rights.
“We are always at the receiving end. If a domestic helper flees, we are blamed. If a domestic helper does not work properly we are accused,” the agent said. “However, once the law is enforced, a domestic helper would be under probation for 90 days after taking up a job. If the employer does not want her, he can provide a no-objection certificate and the domestic helper can work elsewhere.”

Legal circles said the proposed law would ensure, among other rights, that domestic helpers are paid on time.

“Once it is mandatory for employers to transfer a domestic helper’s salary to her bank account or give a receipt for the payment made in cash, she is sure she is paid on time,” they said.

Domestic helpers often complain that they are made to work for long hours and that they do not receive their salaries on time.

However, once the anti-trafficking legislation is adopted, householders
could be taken to task if they force domestic helpers to do work that involves hard physical labour or is not part of a helper’s job and is incompatible with a woman’s physical ability.

The anti-human trafficking law includes clauses for crimes against women, children and people with special needs as well as for husbands forcing their wives into prostitution.

Punitive measures suggested in the draft include imprisonment of violators up to 15 years and fines running up to QR300,000 ($82,300).

The law stipulates that victims of human trafficking be provided food and shelter as well as legal aid by the Qatari government and repatriation rights with help from their home country embassies.

Interpol and Qatari embassies will provide assistance in extraditing violators based abroad and bring them to trial in Qatar. However, violators who turn witnesses in court cases involving human trafficking are to be pardoned and charges against them would be withdrawn.

Government officials who are found directly or indirectly involved in human trafficking cases, including accepting bribes, will be charged under the proposed legislation.

Charges will also be leveled against those who employ victims of human trafficking and against people who have information about incidents of human trafficking and fail to inform the authorities concerned.

If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to three years or fined up to QR150,000 ($41,150) or both.

Even though the draft law does not specifically mention domestic helpers, lawyers said the proposed law, once implemented, would also apply to those who mistreat helpers, sexually harass them or force them to work for long hours without paying them.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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