Vietnamese women trafficked into Saudi Arabia suffer sexual abuse and torture -UN rights experts

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Some women and girls recruited in Vietnam to work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, are being sexually abused and tortured, says a group of UN independent human rights experts on Thursday, calling on both nations to curb human trafficking.

After signing on with labour recruitment companies in Vietnam, girls and women found themselves sexually abused, beaten and subjected to torture and other cruel treatments by employers in Saudi Arabia.

Often these women are denied food and medical treatment, not paid at all, or paid less than stipulated in their contracts, the rights experts say.

“We are seeing traffickers targeting Vietnamese women and girls living in poverty, many of whom are already vulnerable and marginalized. Traffickers operate with impunity”, they said in a statement.

Urging the two countries to do more to combat trafficking and to protect these workers, the experts warned that all cooperation should be based on human rights’ principles, and assure accountability.

“Saudi Arabia should bring migrant domestic workers under its labour law protections and extend the reforms of its kafala system to such workers,” they said, referring to a mechanism used to monitor migrant labourers, working primarily in the construction and domestic service sectors.

The group highlighted “truly alarming allegations” that some companies in Vietnam recruited girls as domestic workers and forged their age on documents, to hide the fact they were children.

They share the case of one 15 year-old Vietnamese girl who became ill because of beatings inflicted by her employer, who also denied her food and medical treatment.

She arranged to return home, but died before she could board her flight back. Because her documents had been forged, her family has not yet received the body, so they can lay her to rest.

In less than a two month span, between September 03 and October 28, nearly 205 women, many alleged victims of trafficking, have been repatriated to Vietnam.

The experts called on the southeast Asian country to strengthen the welfare services and assistance provided to these women, including legal assistance, medical and psychosocial care.

They also urged both governments to conduct an impartial and independent investigation, including allegations of involvement of public authorities.

“We further remind Vietnam and Saudi Arabia of their international legal obligations to cooperate in order to combat trafficking in persons, including in criminal justice investigations, provision of effective remedies and assistance to victims of trafficking,” they said.

The experts have been in contact with both countries and, according to their statement, would like to continue this “constructive engagement”. (Source: UN News)

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