By DALE GAVLAK, Associated Press Dale Gavlak, Associated Press
AMMAN, Jordan – An international human rights group on Tuesday urged Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to do more to protect domestic workers, citing fresh allegations that employers in the three Mideast nations abused their Sri Lankan maids.
Human Rights Watch said the allegations indicate a "broader pattern of abuse" and urged the governments of the three countries to create a mechanism for domestic workers to report abuse as soon as it happens, rather than after returning to Sri Lanka.
The group said it received reports from a Sri Lankan housemaid working in Jordan who said she was forced to swallow nails. It said another maid, employed in Kuwait, claimed her employer drove nails into her body.
"The wanton brutality alleged in these cases is shocking," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The watchdog said the "fresh allegations highlight the need for government authorities to investigate such claims promptly and to bring those responsible to justice.
Earlier in August, Sri Lankan doctors removed 13 nails and five needles from a woman who claimed the items were driven into her body by her employers in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi officials later denied the allegation saying the whole story was baseless.
Jordan included domestic workers under the country's 2008 labor law but enforcement remains a problem. The rights group says neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia have legal protections for domestic workers.
Priyantha Weerasekera, a spokesman for Sri Lanka's Foreign Employment Bureau, said they are awaiting the medical reports in order to decide how to act on these complaints.
The bureau is a government agency that oversees the welfare of expatriate workers.
Sri Lankan workers can earn higher salaries overseas as maids or drivers. About 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, nearly 400,000 of them in Saudi Arabia alone.
Associated Press writer Bharatha Mallawarachi contributed to this report from Colombo, Sri Lanka.