Riyadh investigates Saudi woman who 'forced housemaid to drink bleach'

Riyadh investigates Saudi woman who 'forced housemaid to drink bleach'
2 min read
21 September, 2018
Agnes Mancilla was subjected to numerous forms of abuse by her employer, doctors found, after she was hospitalised forcefully drinking bleach.
Agnes was rushed to hospital after the attack [Youtube/PhilippinesDFA]
A case has been opened against a Saudi woman who allegedly forced her housemaid to drink bleach as a punishment for not preparing tea properly earlier this year.

The Philippines foreign ministry on Thursday announced that Saudi authorities filed a case against the unnamed woman who forced domestic worker Agnes Mancilla, 35, to drink household bleach, after she had allegedly made a mistake preparing tea on April 2.

Agnes, who began working in Saudi Arabia in 2016, was found unconscious by members of the Filipino community in the port city of Jizan who rushed her to King Fahad Hospital where she was treated for her serious internal injuries and put into intensive care.

Prior to forcing Agnes to drink bleach, her employer forced her to work 20 hours a day, denied her payment and deprived her of food, only giving her coffee for meals, according to Philippines Consul General to Jeddah Edgar Badajos.

At the time of her treatment, doctors said they found burn marks on Agnes’ back, hinting her employer has a record of physically abused her.

“We are counting on our Saudi friends in ensuring that our kababayan (countryfolk) would be able to obtain justice for the unthinkable deed committed against her,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano added.

Institutional abuse

Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab countries have a track record of institutionalising abuse against foreign domestic workers, forcing them to live in slave-like conditions.

Rights groups have voiced alarm over the plight of workers in the Gulf and other Arab countries, where migrant labour is regulated under a system known as "kafala". 

The Middle East's Gulf region has an estimated 2.4 million migrant domestic workers, the majority from Asia and Africa. They fall under the kafala ("visa sponsorship") system, forbidding them to leave or change employers without their initial employer's consent.

If they do, they can be arrested and punished for "absconding" with fines, detention and deportation.

The isolating and harsh working conditions often, though not always, lead to workers being treated as property of their employers – leaving the worker vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.