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Wednesday , August 21 2019

Kuwaiti social media celebrity remains unrepentant on Filipino workers rights

Backlash on internet

Sondo al-Qattan

KUWAIT CITY, July 23, (AFP): A Kuwaiti social media star remained unapologetic Monday over comments she made against new laws aimed at improving conditions for Filipino domestic workers, despite a backlash on the internet. Sondo al-Qattan faces criticism for a video posted on July 10 to Instagram, where she has 2.3 million followers, in which she attacked measures introduced in May that grant Filipinas working in the oilrich Gulf state one day off per week and prevent employers from keeping their passports.

Qattan, known for her internet make-up tutorials, told AFP by phone that the outcry was “unjustified” and did not require an apology. “All I said was that the employer was entitled to keep the servant’s passport, and that many Kuwaitis and Gulf nationals agree with me,” said Qattan. “I have the right as a kafil (sponsor) to keep my employee’s passport, and I am responsible for paying a deposit of up to 1,500 dinars (around $4,900),” she said.

Qattan insisted the practises are not an “insult to the employee, and do not concern humanity or human rights because I did not deprive the employee of her salary or beat her”. “The servant lives in the house just like the owners, he eats the same food, sleeps, rests and goes out shopping … this is a natural right. He’s not like a waiter who works fixed hours, so we give him a weekly leave,” she added.

Qattan’s comments in the now deleted clip sparked outrage on social media, with many Twitter and Instagram users calling on brands that work with the makeup artist to sever ties. Migrante International, an advocacy outfit for Filipinos working overseas, called on Qattan to apologise and likened her comments to those of “a slave owner”.

On May 11, Kuwait and Manila signed an agreement regulating domestic labour, following a diplomatic crisis that led to a ban on Filipino workers going to work in the Gulf country.

In February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a partial ban on workers travelling to Kuwait after a Filipina maid was murdered and her body found in a freezer.

The crisis deepened after Kuwaiti authorities in April expelled Manila’s ambassador over video footage of Philippine embassy staff helping workers escape employers accused of mistreatment.

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