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Lebanon's wretched triad: Domestic workers"Women "Palestinians

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Lebanon's wretched triad:    Domestic workers"Women "Palestinians

Are they forging an alliance that will humanize Lebanon's archaic laws?

 

University students surveyed last month in Lebanon on the subject of how to improve their society and move it in the direction of meeting international human and civil rights norms identified three groups most in urgent need of immediate Lebanese governmental action.

  Not surprising perhaps, but nevertheless refreshing, were the students strongly expressed convictions, regardless of particular sect,   that those most victimized by Lebanon's government and current laws are the roughly 200,000 migrant domestic workers, woman, who make up half of Lebanon's population, and the estimated 250,000 Palestinian refugees waiting to return to their country, Palestine.

The wretched domestic workers""..

Last month's suicide by domestic worker 33 years old Alem Dechasa-Desisa, following a beating in front of her Ethiopian Consulate by Ali Mahfouz and his colleague, whose recruitment agency arranged for Alem to work in Lebanon, was condemned across this country and angered those watching the video of the beating on LBCI TV.

This incident once more raised the near slavery plight of workers from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Sudan, the Philippines, and Nepal and elsewhere who are excluded from the Lebanon's labor law. Among the triad of the most wretched in Lebanon, domestic workers suffer the most.

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  Once again, the Lebanese government issued a seemingly pro forma statement to say it would investigate the despicable abuse of domestic workers.   Few here have confidence that anything will come of the current "investigation" any more than usually results from police or ministry investigations of domestic workers abuse. "The Lebanese authorities only opened an investigation because they found themselves in the media spotlight," Nadim Houry, the deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, told a news conference, adding that "The government urgently needs to address the root causes that are driving so many migrant domestic workers to despair."     More than a dozen Civil society groups also cited a culture of impunity when it comes to the abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon.

In a 2008 study, Human Rights Watch found that there had been an average of one death a week from unnatural causes among domestic workers in Lebanon, including suicides and unexplained falls from tall buildings. Domestic workers are subject to restrictive immigration rules based on employer-specific sponsorship that puts workers at risk of exploitation and makes it extremely difficult for them to leave abusive employers, The Philippines, Ethiopia and other countries have banned their citizens from working in Lebanon due to the lack of protection from Lebanon yet many still come here in order to work and send money back home to their families.

According to HRW, the most common complaints documented by the embassies of labor-sending countries and civil society groups include mistreatment by recruiters, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, forced confinement to the workplace, a refusal to provide any time off for the worker, forced labor, and verbal and physical abuse. HRW also cited information prepared by KAFA Violence & Exploitation, a Lebanese women's rights group, concerning nine suspicious deaths in August 2010.

A number of factors mean that MDWs often do not file or pursue complaints against their employers, but rather settle on unfavorable terms. These include lack of judicial support, fear of counter charges and being held in detention, and restrictive visa policies that make it hard for MDWs to see through cases that can take months or years   to word through the protracted judicial process.  For many, the need to earn money to support their families, and the impulse of abused workers to return home quickly prompts them to withdraw their complaints rather than seek redress. A Human Rights Watch review of 13 criminal cases that MDWs brought against employers found they took an average of 24 months to be resolved, while MDW complaints for unpaid wages filed in civil courts lasted between 21 and 54 months. Complaints brought before labor courts, which are supposedly faster than regular civil courts because their procedures are simpler, lasted 32 months on average.

The wretched Women of Lebanon-- half of the population"

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Lebanese law prevents women married to a non-Lebanese from passing citizenship on to her children. Much like the right to property, which women in Lebanon, like Palestinians also don't enjoy fully, the value of citizenship and family rights is meaningless when the state restricts transferability. This means that many children born and raised in Lebanon are required to regularly reapply for permits to continue living in the country.

Since Lebanese law does not provide a clear judicial standard children must deal with the administrative maze of Lebanon's corrupt and notoriously inefficient bureaucracy. As the children grow into adults, they face restrictions on foreign labor, property ownership and a host of other implications much like Palestinian refugees. While diaspora Lebanese may have citizenship from other countries, they can also claim Lebanese citizenship via paternal consanguinity, but people born and raised in Lebanon depend on the arbitrary decisions of the security services.

Women also remain invisible in positions of formal power such as Parliament. No women serve in Lebanon's cabinet, while only four women -- the usual group of wives, sisters and daughters -- are Members of Parliament.

  Some have proposed a quota for women in Parliament. According to lawyer Anthony Elghossain " in a political culture that derides women for being outspoken and active, a quota would amount to little more than a paper reform. Indeed, without changing other aspects of Lebanese electoral law, a quota system would probably add a bunch of "yes women" to the flock of male sheep that is Lebanon's legislature."

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