Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Jordan to enforce the legal protection for migrant domestic workers, charging that laws in the kingdom are "facilitating abuse."
The New York-based watchdog and Jordan's Tamkeen Centre for Legal Aid said Amman introduced laws in 2008 to give domestic workers regulated hours, including a day off each week, and to criminalise human trafficking.
"But enforcement remains negligible," they told a joint news conference as they released a report documenting "abuses against domestic workers and the failure of Jordanian officials to hold employers and the agents who recruited the workers accountable."
The 111-page report also criticises immigration and domestic labour laws for "facilitating abuse, such as confinement in the home and imposing fines for overstaying the legal residency period, even where the worker is not at fault."
"Jordan's legal reforms aren't worth the paper they are written on if they do not make a difference in the lives of migrant domestic workers," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at HRW.
"If Jordan wants to remain a regional leader in protecting domestic worker rights, it should muster the political will to enforce its own rules."
Many of the 70,000 migrant domestic workers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines now living in Jordan "face the same abuses as migrant domestic workers elsewhere in the region," HRW said in a statement.
"These include beatings, confiscation of passports, confinement to the house, insults, non-payment of salaries, and overlong working hours with no days off."
The report cites an example of an Indonesian worker who was locked up for more than three years without pay because her employers, who had taken her passport, did not allow her to go back to her country.
"She escaped when the employers left the key in the lock one day, but prosecutors did not consider her a victim of trafficking," it said.
Linda Qalash, head of Tamkeen, said that in 2011 the centre received about 500 complaints related to violations of migrant domestic workers' rights.
Jordan voted for, but has not ratified, the International Labour Organisation Convention on Domestic Work, which obliges governments to ensure decent working conditions and protection from violence for domestic workers, and mandates compliance with national laws protecting them.
"Disempowerment of domestic workers starts in their home countries, where unscrupulous recruitment agents deceive them with false promises of easy work and high salaries," the statement said.