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A Report on the Dire Situation Of Subcontinental Barmaids

Majid J Khan | 08.07.2005 08:27 | Repression | Social Struggles | World

This report intends to bring to your attention the plight and distress of Subcontinental Barmaids, mostly Bangladeshis, who is in need of an urgent assistance and remedial action by the relevant Government Authorities and from the NGO’s in Bangladesh.

Report On
Dire Situation of a young Subcontinintal Lady in Bahrain
Requested Input from relevant Government Authorities/NGO’s in Bangladesh.
July 7, 2005

Introduction: This report intends to bring to your attention the plight and distress of a Bangladesh national who is in need of an urgent assistance and remedial action by the relevant Government Authorities and from the NGO’s in Bangladesh.

By way of quick personal introduction, I am 48 years old, Indian, Professional Engineer, working for two decades here, as a Senior Manager for a multinational organisation and am responsible for some 300 employees.

This lady named “Fatima” (changed to protect her identity for now) had arrived on a ‘free’ maid’s visa, purchased by her distant cousin, some eight months ago.

Subsequently, she was ‘sold’ to a known ‘sadist’ person of another nationality, in December 2004. Unfortunately, he has seriously abused her both mentally and physically, needing frequent medical attention (the writer has seen her once with badly bruised face and then with serious bodily injuries in the last two months). She is locked in a small room except for a six- hour window, under his surveillance, when she works in an evening bar (although it is illegal for ladies on house-maids visa to do so but is common practice here in Manama).

When we asked this lady to let us report the matter to the embassy or the police, she begged us not to do that, as she could not afford to return to Bangladesh. She has accumulated a loan of some 180,000 Taka, from a Samiti, on 3% per month, 36% per year basis. Her husband is a jobless alcoholic and she has three young children aged between 3 to 7 years (this information on loans and family were verified by my vacationing subordinate in Dhaka last week). As for Fatima, returning now would mean a serious crisis, and she says would have no choice but to commit suicide along with her children.

Purpose: The main purpose of this report is to bring this matter to the attention of the authorities and NGO’s in Bangladesh with an expectation that they would take necessary compassionate measures to assist this victim return to her family in Dhaka with a little, or preferably, no loans to pay for. It is also expected that health department would provide necessary psychiatric and other treatments. She needs to, and requests to be rehabilitated with some job or earning potential in Dhaka to make her ends meet.

Background Information (General): In the light of my decade old experience and those of my acquaintance, I would like to provide the following general information on the subject item:

i) Almost all the ‘economy’ level Restaurants and Bars in Manama, have Asian Sub-continental barmaids who have to allow their customers the liberties ‘touch and feel’ any portion while they drink. The nature of these interactions would actually amount to a serious case of molestation in any decent society!
ii) There is no salary paid to these barmaids! But their mode of earning is the tips they get. In fact these girls must pay an entry fee to the bar, amounting to 0.50 to 1.00 BD per day. So there is no employee status, nor benefits, however, once entered the bar, these ladies must stay for the whole session of 6 to 8 hours. The pity is that there is more supply of these ladies than actual demand. Therefore you can see a large number of redundant, tired looking ladies sitting near the entrance waiting for an ‘interested’ customer. Typically a customer pays a tip of one BD per session.

iii) Almost all the barmaids in such places have a house-maid’s visa. These are also called free visa, where you can buy one from an agent, for about 600 BD. This money is shared between the agent and the sponsor, on whose name the visa was issued. When these ladies arrive they are on their own and pay some 10 BD per month to the sponsor as a protection fee.

iv) There are infrequent police raids on such bars. Any lady caught with “wrong” visa is liable for deportation! So there is a constant fear for these ladies of loosing the livelihood and also going to jail before deportation. Those with ‘good’ connections with someone in authority, or have a kind sponsor may get a reprieve.

Specific Background Information on Fatima: The verified background information on Fatima’s ill-fated journey to this point is as follows:

i) Having accrued a loan of some 70000 Taka for her step- daughter’s wedding and other necessary expenses, and with no source of repayment, as her husband is a jobless alcoholic, she began to feel the pinch of stiff interest of 3% per months and ever mounting debt. Her distant cousin named Leena , who herself works in bar, offered to buy her a free visa which would facilitate Fatima to join her or another bar.

Since Fatima is lady of reasonably good looks, both were confident that 600 BD for the visa plus another 65000 Taka for the processing, air-ticket, clothes and other unspecified expenses, would be recovered through bar tips within a year or so ( typical monthly income for a barmaid ranges from 150 BD to as high as 400 BD during Eid or holiday season).

ii) Bad luck hit Fatima immediately upon her arrival. She found out of her ‘early-pregnant’ status soon after her arrival in Manama! With no facility for an abortion, some older ladies ill advised her to eat papaya, which backfired and she has a severe reaction, a near death experience. Her cousin got Fatima treated and spent all necessary money and effort to put her back on her feet. However, with a combination of factors such as no income for two months, huge medical expenses and demands for the original visa costs , the cousin said she had no choice but hand-over Fatima to an interested buyer, Mr. Nawaz, for BD 700. He took her to his room, so no accommodation cost and undertook to provide her food with a ceiling of 100 BD per month.

iii) Mr. Nawaz, a known sadist in the bar circles and a cunning man, played a master-stroke! He located, befriended and paid some money to the ‘Arbab’, Bahraini sponsor of Fatima, who instructed her to live with Mr. Nawaz or else he would deport her .

iv)Typically most bar-maids here have casual male partners, but the girl has the right to break off with them, at will, because their ultimate boss is the sponsor. But in Fatima’s case Nawaz is her ultimate authority or more appropriately her owner, as he has paid BD 700 and has the sponsor eating from his hand!

v) Fatima is an extremely submissive, soft and innocent looking girl, who would remind any decent human being of his young daughter or sister. She cant even dream of standing upto Nawaz or utter a word of protest. She is mortally afraid of him. No one can help her. Even her cousin and other acquaintance are not allowed to say a word. If they do, he beat her more. They are mute witness to the whole situation.

Current Situation Of Fatima:

i) Mr. Nawaz’s treatment of Fatima reminds one of the slave stories from the middle ages. She is locked in the room from dawn to dusk, with no outside contact. Any form of protest is met with fierce beating. Her latest beating was the result of her crying for missing her babies in Bangladesh! It took her one week to recover from the beating.

ii) He decides on day-to-day basis whether she goes to work or not. But whatever little she earns, he allows her to send it to Bangladesh. However, her frequent absence from work does not help her to make sufficient money to pay for the loans in Bangladesh or in Bahrain. Currently, her loans are climbing at the rates 55oo Taka per month!

iii) Despite sending her little earning to Dhaka, she gets no respite from there either. In fact it is exactly opposite of that. She receives frequent messages from her husband in Bangladesh asking for more money. Whatever she sends, a large portion goes for his drinks. She is under constant pressure of the increasing debt and concern for her young toddlers.

v) The situation in Bangladesh turned for worse when one of her distant relative spilled the beans about her living under the possession of another man and working in a beer bar! Last week, her husband from Bangladesh threatened to kill her if she ever returned to Bangladesh and that he would never allow her to see her children.
vi) Nawaz has now started to pressurize her to accompany him back to his country as his purchased property, using a false marriage certificate. He says he would let her visit Dhaka, but only after a couple of years.

vii) Our family doctor, who spoke to Fatima over the phone says she needs immediate psychiatric help as she has developed ‘severe depression’ and panic disorder problem from the slave driving by Nawaz. Even a mention of his name literally makes her shiver! Her husband’s utterances from Bangladesh as stated above), have punished her further to the cliff edge. She is also diagnosed with migraine headache, vision problem, frequent numbness, gynecological problems such as lighter periods and spotting between periods. Some of these could be attributed to the side-effects of the anti pregnancy oral contraceptives.

Summarised Conclusion and Recommendations : Based on data presented above it can be concluded that Fatima, an innocent young lady who ventured out in order to feed her children and clear the outstanding loans, has landed in a serious mental physical and financial troubles in Bahrain. On the one hand, she has been enslaved by a sadist who treats her as nothing more than a sex-slave, on the other she can not afford to return to Bangladesh due to the outstanding loans, threat by her husband and no source of income to take care of her young children.

Unless you, the government agencies and the NGO’s from Bangladesh, undertake to assist Fatima, she is bound to suffer to a painful end. She has already confided to her few close friends that she could not take it anymore!

I would suggest you ladies and gentlemen to consider the following to ease the pains of this innocent lady:

1. Outstanding Loans: Ameliorate the situation by either arranging to reduce the load of the loan currently at 180,000 Taka or to contribute / arrange through Govt / NGO’s to write-off or pay for the whole outstanding amount. It is expected that BNWLA, WARBE, BOMSA, ACD, MEWOE may be able to help in this noble work

2. Rehabilitation and Job: Locate a job for Fatima after her return to Bangladesh, so that, she can feed her children and herself. Again, the above mentioned agencies are expected to assist (BNWLA, WARBE, BOMSA, ACD, MEWOE).

3. Counseling of Fatima’s husband: Her alcoholic husband has vowed to kill her for staying with another man. It is suggested that CWCS or MEWOE or other suitable organisation pacifies her husband and remind him of the sacrifices this lady is making for her family.

4. Medical Treatment Of Fatima: If/when Fatima reaches Dhaka, she will need major psychiatric and physical medical attention to recuperate. Perhaps WARBE or other responsible organisation can help.

5. Repatriation of Fatima: Fatima can only return to Dhaka if/when the above stated 4 no. items are assured. Inshallah when it is done then you will need to repatriate Fatima from Bahrain. I believe RMMRU, PHQ, WARBE, ACTION AID can assist in achieving it.

Please respond to the above requested items explaining what assistance you can provide to Fatima and advise me by return mail. I would request for a clear non-ambiguous, non- political and straight forward response on each item so that we can discuss these with Fatima. I would then be extremely pleased to lead you ladies /gentlemen to her. However, any premature disclosure would possible to lead to her ‘owner’ Mr. Nawaz, which may lead to serious problem to Fatima. Therefore I request you to kindly expedite this one and let me know what assistance you can provide.

Finally, I believe, I have done my part as a human being, and expect you ladies and gentlemen to take swift corrective and remedial measures, you may deem fit to save your country-mate who thinks you are her only hope after Allah!!!

Majid J. Khan
Sr. Manager.
AHSLtd Co.

Acknowledgement: My sicere thanks to Mr. Rashid Hussain, Mr. William duck, Mr. Anwar Khan, Mr. Salim Baig for their contribution and varification of data presented.

Majid J Khan


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  1. True? — subhi raina