Married Saudi women say rules that prevent them from recruiting maids from abroad are a violation of their rights.
Married women are not allowed to recruit maids; they have to be a widow or a divorcee before they can.
A number of women expressed their anger toward these conditions. Elham, an employee, faced this particular problem because her husband did not want to recruit maids under his name.
She was left with no choice, since she was not a widow or divorced, but to go to a recruitment office to obtain a visa for maid. “The agent demanded SR1,500 for his personal expenses and SR2,000 for the visa. He promised to issue the visa within one day. Two weeks after I paid him, I have heard nothing.”
Um Hani, a Saudi mother of three, sees no reason why a Saudi married woman is deprived of her right to recruit a maid under her name if she is financially sound.
“I have two daughters and a son. My husband refused to bring in a maid, giving the excuse that our sons have grown up and he does not want a strange woman in the house,” she said.
“I believe that the maid is important in helping me take care of the laundry and cooking because I am getting older and I have health problems. Since the law does not allow me to recruit maids on my own, I have to rely on illegal maids and pay them high salaries.”
She said that since she has an identification card, she should be able to recruit under her name.
Yahya Al-Maqboul, head of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s recruitment committee, confirmed that women can recruit maids only under their husbands’ names.
He said the Interior Ministry created this condition, and a woman could only recruit if she could prove that there was an urgent need to do so.
He also warned women of illicit deals offered by recruitment offices to issue maid visas. He said these offices were taking advantage of the conditions in the recruitment market to make a profit.