In what can be termed a modern-day slave trade, Sri Lankan women arrive in Lebanon only to find themselves abused, imprisoned, raped, hungry, defenseless and alone. Siriani P., 27, came to Beirut in a desperate attempt to save her family from a life of poverty.
Just ten months later, however, she grabbed the first opportunity to run away from her employers. Clambering into a taxi, Siriani frantically sought help. "Embassy, Sri Lankan embassy," she told the driver, using the little English she knew. But after searching in vain for her embassy, Siriani ended up wandering the streets of Hamra in tears. With one eye swollen and a bump rising on her forehead, she rubbed the red marks on her neck, signs that "Madam" had, on many occasions, pulled Siriani's hair and banged her head against the wall. Clasping her well-worn dress, she sobbed as she recalled her mistress stripping her down to her underwear and beating her thin body.
Siriani's tied hands prevented her from defending herself. The pain became even more unbearable when she was thrown to the floor and trod on repeatedly. "I wanted to throw myself from the ninth floor! I'd rather die than go on like this."
Siriani's weight dropped dramatically after she came to Lebanon. Awakened daily at 4:00 AM, she was forbidden to eat before 5:00 PM. Even then, she was only allowed to drink unpurified tap water with her meager meals while the family drank bottled water. Locked inside all day, she was unable to search for assistance.
Sri Lankan women are usually recruited to work overseas by local agents who promise riches in exchange for jobs abroad. Those who respond to the offer are then required to pay a fee to the local agent -- up to $500, an overwhelming sum for most. Many borrow the money, incurring a debt, which, in the future, may prevent them from returning to their country if their Lebanese employer denies them their wages. At the other end of the labor migration chain are various Lebanese agencies constituting an unregulated -- and highly lucrative -- industry. At a cost ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, a Lebanese family can "buy" a Sri Lankan maid whose monthly salary will range from $100 to $150. The agency draws up a contract committing the maid to her employer for two or three years. Since the contract and negotiations are in Arabic, the Sri Lankan woman usually has little understanding of what she has committed herself to. The contract stipulates that the agency's responsibility for the woman expires after three months. The employer and the employee must then resolve any problems. If a dissatisfied employer brings the maid back to the agency, she will likely be beaten to render her "obedient."Read the rest: http://www.labournet.de/internationales/rl/maids.html