Oman handles physical, sexual abuses as per Oman Penal Code: OHRC

The Universal Human Rights Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948

Muscat: Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has observed reports published by the “Sunday Mail” newspaper published in Zimbabwe and a Dutch Organization named “Do Bold” in relation to Zimbabwean and Sierra Leon women who arrived in Oman as domestic workers.

Following an investigation conducted by OHRC in coordination with Ministry of Labour and Royal Oman Police (ROP), OHRC issued a statement, “Some Zimbabwean women are deceived usually by the recruitment agencies in their countries. They were deceived about the nature of the job, the salary, and the place of stay. Some of them tried to flee their employer after they had discovered that the recruitment agencies in their countries deceived them”.

OHRC said, “To secure the rights of those maids, they should have filed their complaints to the authorities concerned in Oman as per the established laws and regulations. They should have reported any violation to the airport officers and submitted documents or evidences proving that they have been subject to any abuse as guaranteed by the Omani laws and regulations.

As for their physical health safety, OHRC points out that the Omani judiciary and competent authorities handle the physical and sexual abuse cases as per the provisions of the Omani Penal Code. As per this law, everyone should receive decent treatment that maintains his/her dignity and preserve his/her rights.

As for the low salary alleged by these reports, OHRC noted that these salaries are agreed by the labour contract signed between the employer and the worker voluntarily.

As for the allegation of housemaids’ passports confiscation upon arrival, it should be noted that the employer might not take the passport of the worker without his/her approval. As per the Ministry of Labour Circular in 2006, “The employer may not confiscate the passport of the worker without his/her approval or without permission from the Court. This affirms that the right is protected for the worker to maintain his/her passport. In case any violation is made on the same, the worker may report such violation to the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Labour, and other competent authorities in Oman.

As for the allegation that the housemaids were forced to see out their two-year employment contracts in spite of poor working conditions, denial of adequate food and healthcare, OHRC affirmed that the Ministry of Labour’s Decision No. 189/2044 about the conditions for the employment of housemaids states that ‘the agreement between the employer and the housemaid should be in writing. It should specify the rights and obligations of both parties including the salary, vacation and food. If the worker failed to honour his obligation, he/she may report such violations to the competent authorities.

In its statement, OHRC noted that the aforementioned decision mandated the employer to provide free-of charge food, healthcare, and return ticket to the maid at the termination of the employment contract.

The same decision also provides maids with rest periods during the day, in addition to monthly day-offs- as per the employment contract terms.

Additionally, OHRC said that the Article 3 of the Omani Labour Law No. 35/2003 banned all forms of forced labour. Oman has also ratified Convention No. 29 on Forced Labour and Convention No. 105 about Elimination of Forced Labour. OHRC has affirmed that it has not received any complaints from workers about forced labour.

The OHRC statement pointed out, “Any labourer or maid may submit a complaint by personal attendance at the Ministry of labour or the Settlements Committee at the Ministry. If the complaint is not settled within two weeks at the Labour Welfare Directorate or the Settlements Committee, the competent department shall refer the case to the Labour Circuit at the Court within not more than two weeks from the expiry of the said period.”

OHRC added that the human trafficking combat system in the Sultanate of Oman has in place quick response measures by Royal Oman Police and Human Trafficking Combat Committee. There are also many agencies that provide protection, accommodation, food, healthcare and legal assistance to workers in distress. There is also a hotline to receive human trafficking complaints.

As for the cases at which housemaids may be victims of human trafficking, it should be noted that housemaids who may be victims to human trafficking or being forced to carry out illegal works can report such violations to the National Committee for Combatting Human Trafficking through its toll-free number that operates round the clock.

OHRC affirmed that the National Committee for Combatting Human Trafficking maintains coordination with the Ministry of Social Development to provide human trafficking victims with accommodation (Dar Al Wifaq), legal assistance, healthcare and psychological support until the case is settled and the complainant receives equitable rights.

Despite that, OHRC cannot be certain that there are no legal or humanitarian abuses against these workers or others in Oman. This is the case in most countries worldwide due to daily interaction between people. This can sometimes result in the infringement of the rights of both the worker and the employer. However, this can be addressed by resorting to the competent authorities, and through the available means of reporting, filing complaints, and requesting legal protection, which OHRC believes that these channels are available and guaranteed in the Sultanate of Oman.

OHRC affirms that Omanis and non-Omanis who may need to report any violation of inhumane treatment may report the same through the toll-free number (1970) or WhatsApp number (72221966) or the website http://www.ohrc.com/ or through OHRC Twitter account @ohrc_oman.

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