Bewitched

There are some things that as an Irish person living in the Middle East that never cease to amaze.  For some, it’s the weather, others, the opulence evident in everyday life and In my case; it’s the availability and common practice of having a maid.  

Consider that coming from a working background in Cork you’re more likely to emigrate to the Middle East and have a maid, than your peer in Columbo in Sri Lanka who is more likely to emigrate to the Middle East and become a maid!, both escaping unemployment by moving to the same country, both entering a tiered society and both entering different tiers.   Entering my fourth year of expatriation, naturally the awe does wear off a little and accepting this standard practice becomes second nature.

I use the term “maid”, as that is the commonly accepted terminology in the Middle East.  Note this is not like a professional maid, like a professional personal shopper or a professional cleaner who makes a living from her skills to sustain a life outside of their work, but a real maid, a person who task it is to serve, you, her counterpart, born into the same world, just a different address.  So, for the sum of approximately Eu. 250 a month, this maid is yours, 24/6. ( Even the maid is entitled to a day off).

 In order for a person to enter the country as a maid she must first be sponsored by her employer.  Should she not meet the satisfaction of her employer her sponsorship risks being cancelled and she faces the threat of deportation or a transfer of sponsorship.  While she is in the country she is the responsibility of her employer, her medical needs must be met by the employer and usually the cost of her annual flight home.   Should she commit a crime whilst in the U.A.E. , the employers also bears a responsibility and may also face charges.

The daily newspapers in the U.A.E. carry stories all the time about maids.  Often where the maids are ill-treated or end up resorting to theft or crime in order to supplement their paltry salaries.  However it wasn’t until I read about a maid being jailed and facing subsequent deportation due to prostitution and sorcery!  

It was the accounts on which she was charged that struck me.  Obviously she thought that prostitution might pave the way for a brighter future and worth a shot to supplement her income.  ( I would like to point out that while maids winding up in prostitution is a frequent headline it is certainly not the norm for any maids I know, most of whom are devout  Catholics and religious about their integrity)  However, it was the second charge that intrigued me as it turned out that turning tricks wasn’t her sole occupation she also dabbled in the occult, casting spells on her former tight fisted employer whom she blamed for having turned to prostitution in the first place.  When caught in the act, so the speak, the maid threatened her employers / sponsors with witchcraft.  Fearful of being bewitched by the crafty maid, the sponsors, reported her to the authorities.

Interestingly the law looked at the hocus pocus with the same severity as the hanky panky and as both are frowned upon under Islamic law, she was well and truly banged up for a three month term before her imminent deportation.

The sponsors of the maid, didn’t get of scot free either, they received a stiff warning about the responsibility of having a maid and treating her well in order to prevent her from turning to crime.   Rather like the ads in Ireland at Christmas, “a puppy is for life not just for Christmas”.  The case spurned the launch of a month long campaign by the Crime Prevention Division  to “urge employers to treat domestic staff with respect,  to keep a watchful eye and not to leave their maids unsupervised and also to monitor their valuables in case of theft”  Respect?

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