Lebanese housewife jailed for abusing Lankan maid

BEIRUT, June 26, (AFP) -A Lebanese woman was sentenced to one month in jail for mistreating her Sri Lankan housemaid, court papers showed on Friday, a rare happening in a country where rights groups regularly denounce the ill-treatment of foreign domestic helpers.

The 41-year-old housewife was sentenced to jail and fined 6,600 dollars for “having struck” and “seriously mistreated” her home helper in the northern city of Byblos, according to court records seen by AFP.

She was also banned from employing domestic staff for up to five years. The victim suffered blows and ill treatment between December 2004 and May 2007 and was also forbidden to leave the home, the papers showed.

But she escaped and was able to reach the Sri Lankan embassy in Beirut, which referred her to Caritas Migrant Centre, which had her medically examined and helped her draw up a legal case. The medical tests showed “wounds and contusions throughout the body, some recent and other going back several months,” according to court papers.

A lawyer from Caritas, which aids migrant workers in Lebanon, helped bring her case before the court.About 200,000 expatriate workers are legally and illegally employed in Lebanon, the majority of them women from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or the Philippines.

Rights associations defending immigrant workers decry that these labourers are not entitled to weekly holidays, that their passports are confiscated and that they sometimes are not paid.

In December 2009, a Lebanese woman was sentenced to 15 days in prison for striking her domestic worker.

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