There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution.
Shona travelled to Kuwait looking for work. Recruited through a woman, Josna, Shona was forced in to sex work. Shona’s original contract was for 3 years, but when Josna asked her husband if he wished to extend his wife’s stay aboard for another 2 years, he agreed without consulting her, forcing Shona to remain in Kuwait.
In 5 years, I sent 3,00,000 taka to my husband. He bought land, built a house, did everything in his name. I kept nothing for myself. This is because I went abroad to improve my relationship with my husband and because he sent me. Over there, I had to do sex work. Once I "accepted", my salary increased. But inside myself, I could not find peace. I just thought when would it all be over. I counted the days. I was always tense. On the day I heard I was being released, I thanked Allah a thousand times. I was so happy I couldn’t tell you. I was liberated from a jail. It was like a second birth.
You have to make yourself so small. You always live in fear. Only I know this. Everybody cannot accept this work. I am one of those who inwardly could never accept. They forced me to do it. I take God as a witness.
Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub