There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution.
Afroza travelled to Kuwait for work in 1994 through a family member, Josna. However, upon arrival, Afroza was left at the airport for days before she was eventually taken to an employer. Josna moved Afroza from employer to employer where she was subjected to sexual abuse and non-payment of wages.
Josna is my khala shashuri (husband's mother's sister). Through me, she did a business and she did that with other girls as well. Because of her, the first 2 years, I did not get paid and could not send any money home.
I had to wait 3 days at the airport in Kuwait. Josna came to meet me but she could not take me. She said not to worry, she would come back in 2 days. This was very difficult. I cried. I wondered why the airport in Bangladesh did not tell me that something was wrong with my visa.
After another 3 days, Josna and her Comilla husband came to get me. She took me to her house where I found other Bangladeshi women. They were from Comilla, Munshigonj and Joydebpur. Seven days later, Josna took me to an employer. I could not understand the language but she asked for money as one who is selling merchandise. She left me there for 2 months, and then she took me out and placed me elsewhere. She did this 3 times and I was not getting paid.
With the third employer, Afroza had problems. The man had 3 wives and 14 children. Afroza complained that one of the sons sexually assaulted her.
"One day, one of the sons tried to rape me. I found shelter in the room of the Sri Lankan maid. She told me if I did not want to provide this service, I should go back to Bangladesh. There was nothing to be gained by protesting. I understood maids did this work. They had no choice. The next day, I called Josna and asked her to come and get me. I was shocked by her words”. She said: -
"What small thing has happened, let it be. You make a lot of it. What can I do? You came abroad; you have to accept storms and rain. If you don't bake the clay, it does not get hard. Now, you decide what you want to do."
I said, "Send me back to Bangladesh. What I have suffered, I have suffered. I don't want to live this anymore.”
She said: "Do you have any money to buy the ticket?"
I replied: "All my employers said you have received my salary. Can you not buy the ticket?"
- "I can do one thing. I can leave you at the agency."
I spent 2 months at the agency. The agency people used me in all kinds of way. What could I do? I had no money to go back to Bangladesh. After this, I decided to go to a fourth employer and accept everything.
Josna sells women and makes a lot of money out of it. She usually picks girls who are weak and have no family to look after them and she sells them in different places. She is very powerful in Kuwait. You cannot escape her.
She also makes money from girls she keeps in her home. In 1992, she took Korimon from our village. She had a company visa. She kept her at her house a long time and used her. Korimon left very angry. She is lost now. She has not given news for 4 years. Her mother wants to know if she is alive. Can you look her up?
Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub