Sondos Alqattan is criticised for attacking new laws that give Filipino workers better working conditions
A Kuwaiti social media star is facing a backlash after criticising new laws improving conditions for the countrys Filipino domestic workers.
Sondos Alqattan, an Instagram star and makeup artist with over 2.3 million followers, criticised new laws giving Filipino workers a day off per week and preventing employers from seizing their passports.
How can you have a servant at home who keeps their own passport with them? Whats worse is they have one day off every week, she said in a video posted online, which has gone viral and attracted criticism in the Middle East and the Philippines.
Alqattan slated reforms introduced in May to protect the rights of Filipino domestic workers: If they run away and go back to their country, who will refund me? Honestly I disagree with this law. I dont want a Filipino maid any more.
She is facing a storm of criticism for her comments, including from Migrante International, an advocacy group for overseas Filipino workers, which likened Alqattans comments to those of a slave owner, and said she was clinging to a backward outlook which literally belongs to the dark ages.
Critics are pushing for Alqattans sponsors to drop lucrative endorsement deals following her comments, which cap months of diplomatic controversy between the Philippines and Kuwait over the Gulf nations treatment of domestic workers.
The Philippines issued a temporary ban on the deployment of overseas foreign workers (OFWs) to Kuwait in February, after the body of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, a 29-year-old Filipino worker, was found mutilated in a freezer in an abandoned apartment.
In April, tensions increased after the Philippine ministry of foreign affairs released a video showing officials rescuing citizens from Kuwaiti employers accused of abuse. Kuwait later expelled the Philippine ambassador, Renato Villa, as well as withdrawing its own from Manila.
The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, asked the estimated 276,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait to return home, appealing to their sense of patriotism and offering free flights for the 10,000 estimated to have overstayed their visas.
The two countries signed an agreement in May to soothe tensions over labour rights for OFWs, after Philippine authorities demanded that Kuwaiti recruitment offices pay a $10,000 (7,600) deposit to compensate workers whose salaries were withheld or contracts suddenly terminated.
Roughly 660,000 people out of Kuwaits population of 4 million are domestic migrant workers. According to Human Rights Watch, the countrys kafala system, which gives employers extensive powers over migrant workers, often forces them to remain with abusive bosses, while those who flee can be punished and imprisoned.