Qatar’s human rights record is under scrutiny as the World Cup takes place in Doha. A lot has been written about the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums and hotels, but much less about the foreign maids who work for Qatar’s ruling classes. On paper their rights have been strengthened in recent years – but the new rules aren’t always followed.
I make contact with Gladys (not her real name) late at night, after her employers from the Qatari elite have gone to bed.
In a brief online conversation she tells me she works from 8am to 11pm every day. She cleans, helps prepare food and looks after the children.
She eats what’s left from the family’s meals, and says she hasn’t had a day off since she started 18 months ago.
“Madam is crazy,” Gladys, a Filipina woman in her 40s, says about her employer. “She shouts at me every day.”
Before Qatar won the competition to host the 2022 World Cup, foreign workers were unable to change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission. It’s still like this in most Gulf states.
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Under scrutiny, Qatar began to introduce reforms, but Amnesty International says these have failed to end a pattern of abuses faced by domestic workers.
For example, Gladys’s employer has held on to her passport, preventing her from leaving without his consent.
But Gladys still feels lucky. At least she has been allowed to keep her phone, she says, unlike some other foreign maids. Also, she is not physically abused. In Qatar, this happens all too often, she says.
There is another reason she wants to stay in her current job – she thinks it’s unlikely at her age that she will get a better one. She earns 1,500 rials a month (just under £350) and is able to send it all home to support her family.