Challenging Stereotypes of Migrant Workers in Kuwait: Beyond the Headlines

By Zaya Stas

 

In today’s interconnected world, the media profoundly influences our perceptions, attitudes, and understanding of various societal issues. When discussing the experiences of migrant workers in Kuwait, the power of media representation becomes evident as it moulds public opinion and shapes policies. This blog post delves into the intricate relationship between the media and migrant workers in Kuwait, aiming to unravel the narratives that surround them and inspire a critical examination of their portrayal. Within this context, media outlets can shape the narrative surrounding migrant workers, who constitute an essential part of Kuwait’s labour force, contributing significantly to its development and prosperity. However, how they are depicted in the media often perpetuates harmful stereotypes, reinforces misconceptions, and distorts the accurate picture of their contributions, struggles, and aspirations.

The media representation of migrant workers in Kuwait is deeply associated with crimes and societal issues. Newspaper articles often feature headlines explicitly mentioning the nationality of a migrant worker when reporting crimes or incidents. This approach further contributes to a climate of accusations, unfairly placing blame on this vulnerable population. By consistently highlighting the nationality of migrant workers, media outlets reinforce harmful stereotypes and hinder efforts toward a more inclusive society. Moreover, the dehumanizing treatment of migrant workers on social media platforms is distressing and demands attention. Social media users have been posting personal information, such as physical features, skin colour, characteristics, and even the religious affiliation of domestic workers. Platforms, particularly Twitter, have become breeding grounds for objectifying and exploiting domestic workers, with accounts dedicated to promoting the sale of these individuals. Some listings include Kuwaitis selling domestic workers and describing them as “clean and smiley,” as well as pictures of their domestic workers. Such practices serve no purpose other than fostering prejudice and discrimination, fostering an environment where migrant workers face scrutiny, judgment, and harassment solely based on their appearance or background. These actions not only strip away the dignity of migrant workers but also maintain a climate of hostility and intolerance. These practices contribute to an alarming cycle of abuse and exploitation by reducing human beings to commodities. Kuwaiti influencers have also contributed to this damaging image of migrant workers by taking pictures and reporting on negative news regarding migrant workers. In one instance, one of the Kuwait influencers described how it is considered historical garbage that Kuwait is accepting more migrant workers. Addressing this issue requires a collective effort to challenge and dismantle these harmful narratives. Media outlets must recognize their responsibility in shaping public opinion and work towards more balanced and inclusive representations of migrant workers. Similarly, social media platforms must take proactive measures to combat the objectification and exploitation of individuals and create safer spaces where diversity and respect are upheld. By doing so, we can create a society that values the contributions of all individuals and works towards a future free from discrimination and prejudice.

This harmful narrative is continued by various sources, including newspapers and social media platforms, which amplify stereotypes and emphasize the nationality of migrant workers in connection with criminal activities. Instead of providing a fair and accurate representation, these media outlets selectively highlight ethnicity, reinforcing prejudices and fostering implicit biases that wrongly associate certain nationalities with criminal behaviour. In one instance, a newspaper reporting on drug trafficking in Kuwait titled “5 citizens, an Iranian, and an Indian determine their involvement in heroin trafficking or consumption,” seemingly highlights nationality more than the actual crime. This continuous emphasis on the nationality of migrant workers reinforces harmful stereotypes and hinders efforts toward building a more inclusive society. The dehumanizing treatment of migrant workers on social media platforms is equally distressing and demands our attention. Some social media users go to great lengths, posting personal information that includes physical features, skin colour, characteristics, and even religious affiliations of domestic workers. This invasion of privacy fuels discriminatory attitudes and strengthens harmful stereotypes. 

In conclusion, the media’s portrayal of migrant workers in Kuwait carries significant influence and responsibility. It is important to remember that these representations are far from the reality experienced by all migrant workers. To address these issues, media outlets must embrace responsible journalism that challenges biases and stereotypes. When reporting on crimes, journalists must disregard the racial identity of expatriates as it creates a harmful stereotype. Likewise, social media platforms must enforce strict policies to combat hate speech and discriminatory content.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Canada Kuwait Aid Network.”

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