Kuwaiti blogger Sondos Al Qattan made headlines for her comments on reforms intended to improve the lives of Filipino domestic workers.
In a video (which has since been taken down) the blogger ranted on about why Filipino maids should not be allowed to keep their passports or have contractual agreements for their work. She even complained about them having a day off every week.
Her criticism raised eyebrows of both Arabs and Filipinos online. The Internet is forever; it doesn't matter if she deleted it instantaneously - it was only a matter of time before news outlets picked up her video which in turn gave her international infamy. Filipino labour groups are now calling for her name to be added to a government-sanctioned list of undesirable employers.
Kuwait implemented sweeping labour reforms this year intended to safeguard Filipino domestic workers after Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte called for a mass exodus of workers from the Gulf country. Duterte, bringing his shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to diplomacy, almost botched the issue. Instead of engaging in talks with the Kuwaitis, he took a one-sided call, which is representative of the Filipino's focus on oneself over others. But that's a story for another day.
Kuwait was welcome to make changes to its domestic workers' hiring law, which it did. After implementing the reforms, Filipinos flocked back to the country. Months later, this blogger decides to go rogue and attack not just the workers, but in turn her own government.
Dear Sondos, this is not a "foreign media conspiracy" like you claim it is. This is not about Islam or being a hijabi. This is all about what you said. If you refuse to let workers keep their passports, sign contracts or get days off - does that not amount to slavery? Or would you like to pull a Kellyanne and call it "Alternative Servitude?"
Kuwait's laws, like every other country support treating humans kindly. It's not just marked by giving them food or other acts of kindness, it can also be observed by granting them their rights as individuals. These laws not only recognise their humanity, it also protects them. Because there's nothing more nerve-wracking for an expat's family to hear that their sister, brother, mother or father are not doing well because of their employer. By attacking these laws, Sondos became the face of those who refuse change. It must only be her in that camp - judging from the number of Kuwaiti Twitter users who came to the side of the workers she was trying to denounce.
Many who reside in the region are expats. We are all visitors here. Countries like Kuwait have laws to ensure that visitors like us enjoy our stay. It's akin to having someone in your house. Say, you receive guests. Don't you offer them refreshments or treat them nicely?
Soon a number of big-name beauty companies cut their ties with the blogger. Companies don't want to be linked to someone who doesn't know to treat others nicely within the ambit of law. Humans are humans regardless of their work. In refusing to apologise, Sondos is proving two things - that she remains oblivious of the humanity of others and that she remains a renegade in her own country.
By Keith Pereña
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Al Bawaba Business.
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