by Sharon Santiago, staff writer, Feminine-Perspective.org
29 April 2018, Manila: Heroes in the real world come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t all wear colourful suits and capes. Sometimes they surprise you. In this case a rape joker has become a hero to countless thousands of Filipino women and sympathetic women around the world.
Migrant Female Workers Needed a Hero
None have come to the rescue until now.
In the past decade, thousands of migrant female domestic helpers in Kuwait suffering sexual violence and other abuse have sought emergency assistance from their Indonesian, Philippines, Ethiopian and other embassies. It could be said that the concept of packed rescue shelters run by embassies was born in the Middle East.
‘Slave’ Class of People
In a country where migrant workers constitute a significant proportion of the population, there emerges a de facto two class system: owners and slaves.
Human slavery is a big business in the Middle East with an enormous supply of kidnapped women and children from Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen.
There are verified reports of women and children being captured, sold into slavery and held in barbarous conditions in Syria and Iraq then sold across borders. The women are now bought and sold all over the Middle East by brokers in Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and more.
Migrant Workers & Stateless Slaves do Same Work
– Treated Identically
Migrant workers from South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to flock to the Middle East for work. There were reports that Filipino, Nepali, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indonesian, Ugandan, Kenyan, Ethiopian and Mauritanian women were abused in private homes.
The complaints embassies hear are horrid. Countless women claim they are locked up in homes and subjected to verbal abuse, psychological abuse, physical beatings, sexual harassment, rape and even murder.
In Kuwait, Everyone Has servants. Most are Mistreated
Kuwaitis are rich. In fact, per capita, they are about the richest in the world. Oil and human slavery are the big money-makers. It is a tiny country nestled at the top of the Persian Gulf. Flanked by powerful neighbours Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, its strategic location and massive oil reserves make it one of the world’s richest countries per capita. Everybody owns a servant or two (or more).
Often working from six am to one am there are 600,000 foreigners working in Kuwait, a country of 3 million. Slaves are cheap.
Of that 600,000 people, Philippines estimates suggest that there are 260,000 Filipinos living in Kuwait. Of that 260,000, there are about 150 thousand domestic Filipino workers. They are the persons in the most danger.
Kuwait cheaply hires a few Filipino engineers, doctors, nurses, legal experts and architects but mostly it hires Filipinos as domestic servants. Using available data it can be safely said if you live in the Philippines and get hired to work in Kuwait, there is a 65% chance that you will be an abused domestic slave.
What brings these cases to the attention of The RINJ Foundation Women is the emails, text messages and phone calls from women who are being sexually molested and raped. Sadly we hear about these problems after the women have escaped or left at the expiry of their contract. Then they find they are sick physically and emotionally.
- Women have their pay held back and are extorted for sexual favours.
- Women are beaten and force raped by fathers, sons, cousins and friends of the families they serve.
- Women are kept indoors and forced into sexual relationships becoming sick with STIs, or pregnant.
- Women are sexually brutalized, raped with implements and devices that should never enter anyone’s body.
What makes the situation ironic is that the first and only significant rescue of these migrant women is coming from a nation-state leader infamous for rape jokes.
President Duterte Steps Up for Abused Philippines Women
We are not talking about making profound speeches, we are talking about solid, concrete action to bring women home and prevent others from falling into the same situation again in Kuwait.
What do you do if people are raping, beating, killing the women of your country?
Whatever it takes to save them! The case of Philippines embassy workers dashing around in vehicles picking up battered maids who requested to be taken to a shelter, is the case of a panic-attack rescue. What else do you do on short notice? Read
Filipino Women are apparently prisoner slaves in the eyes of the Kuwaiti government which has stupidly protested the rescue of raped or beaten women.
The reaction of the Philippines President (and the Philippine Ambassador Pedro Villa) is unprecedented and makes him a hero to these women.
The fact that bureaucrats in both Manila and Kuwait City from both sides have played games in the media making foolish is irrelevant and not the story as most media outlets seem to think. The real story is the plight of the women and their ongoing rescue for which nobody should be apologising.
Philippines’ Workers Will No Longer Go To Kuwait — Those There Now Will Come Home
Both Indonesia and the Philippines have temporarily in the past banned sending migrant workers to Kuwait. Today the Philippines President Duterte has made that permanent for the Philippines.
Arriving back from an ASEAN Conference in Singapore, Philippines President Duterte announced today that the ban on workers going to Kuwait is permanent; and that all Filipinos in Kuwait may come home at the expense of the Philippines government.
President Duterte also noted that China, which has promised to hire 100,000 teachers from the Philippines, will be asked to assist in hiring displaced workers returning home from Kuwait.
Comfort Women – Let’s Tell The Truth
The behaviour of Kuwait toward its Filipino maids is reminiscent of the Japanese failed “Comfort Women” concept inasmuch as the marginalization and objectification of women by neanderthals ruined what started out as a good idea.
The original Japanese planners of comfort houses were academics and they thought respectfully of soldiers’ need for women sex workers while the men were far from home occupying conquered nations. Enlisting paid prostitutes willing to submit to regulatory safety procedures thus preventing rape by filling the needs of soldiers and also avoiding disease transmission by imposing the use of prophylactics was their concept. The idea was abused in the field.
The term comfort women is a euphemism for prostitution (慰安婦). Historians say hundreds of thousands of women from Korea and other countries were both invited/encouraged or coerced to provide sexual service to frontline Japanese soldiers during WWII. Soldiers took the plan to the blackmarket.
Kuwait, hiring in the Philippines from millions of well-trained, caregiver women as nannies or maids was also a good idea. But somehow either female marginalization or sectarian prejudice turned that into enslavement and criminal abuse by people outside the control of the Kuwaiti government.
According to Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, “the Japanese Army comfort stations failed and did not solve but aggravated the problems they were intended to solve”.
Professor Yoshimi, (modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo) made that remark years ago at a forum in South Korea organized by the Association for Korean Modern and Contemporary History and Northeast Asian History Foundation. Since then, a lot more background has been revealed. The Japanese planners never intended for this comfort women plan to turn out the way it did.
The Comparison Is Real
In each case, Kuwait planners and Japanese planners were incapable of self examination. In each case they were misogynists hence their expectations were not realistic.
In Manila, as some kind of tribute to allegedly exploited Filipino women (most Japanese WWII ‘comfort women’ were actually Chinese and Korean but yes, some prostitutes and some forced “comfort women” were from the Philippines) a statue was erected in December of 2017 while everyone was running around getting ready for Christmas and not looking.
The statue allegedly served as a reminder of Japanese soldiers who abused women. It should not be forgotten that the American and British troops did pretty much the same crimes in Manila. Regardless, the big problem with the statue in Manila is that it is a direct attack on sex workers there who by their own choice and not by oppression, make their living as sex workers. The numbers of women sex workers in Manila are colossal.
On Friday this mistake was removed.
Sex work is seen by academics as a legitimate option for employment and many countries around the world have legalized prostitution. Manila is a good candidate for this measure.
Sex workers are treated with respect and dignity in those countries where sex work is legalized and wise officials tax an industry, otherwise ignored, pouring tons of funds into the public coffers for building schools and sidewalks plus improving health care. Those countries have a lower HIV infection rate and less rape crime.
The latter two benefits significantly enhance the safety of women and children around the world.
It’s time now to stop belittling women sex workers and give those women (and men) workers a safe industry that will be taxed to the benefit of all citizens.
The Philippines government was wise to interfere in the local government’s misplacement of this museum statue in a city like Manila. Women who stare down their wrinkled noses at young lady sex workers can go see history in the museum. Belittling sex workers on Roxas Boulevard, which is what this statue does, is the mistelling of history, and helps nobody in the twenty-first century.
- The Japanese government did not intend for its occupying soldiers to commit the heinous crimes referenced in our comparison but since the government in Tokyo and the Japanese Constitution promise that Japan will never occupy other countries again, it’s a mute point now that Japan has for a decade or more made sincere reparations.
- The government of Kuwait has been continually wincing at the abuse of foreign workers and made many attempts over the years to stop this atrocity. It is not condoning the crimes but it doesn’t seem able to prevent them as was also the case in the Japanese example. For the meantime, the people of Kuwait should do their own laundry and child care. While this systemic societal problem exists there is no way that South East Asian nor African nations should be sending migrant workers. Mr. Duterte is perfectly correct.
- In Manila, sex work is done in the dangerous shadows of an underworld that breeds diseases that threaten workers and public health. Decriminalizing, organizing and regulating prostitution completely is the only way ahead .
by Sharon Santiago, staff writer, Feminine-Perspective.org
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