Human trafficking in Kuwait and providing a fair and safe environment for domestic workers

By Zaya Stas


Many sites specialize in classified ads, an essential means of communication and commercial exchange between individuals and companies. These sites provide an easy-to-use platform for posting ads that are easy to reach by other individuals. These sites include various categories, which include real estate, cars, and services. These websites aim to sell or buy items while enjoying the comfort of their home. However, this is not the case in recent years, as these sites have been violating human rights and aiding human trafficking by allowing domestic workers to be sold. Human trafficking is one of the common human rights issues facing countries worldwide, and Kuwait is no exception. This blog will shed light on the trafficking of domestic workers through websites specialized in classified ads and giant technological companies such as Google and Twitter, which have an important role in shaping electronic scenes.

Domestic workers are an essential and central issue in Kuwait, where it plays a significant role in supporting families and assisting them in household work. The emergence of domestic work in Kuwait is closely related to the rapid growth of the economy after the discovery of oil fields. As the economy expanded, Kuwaiti families began seeking to meet the requirements of their changing lifestyle and meet the needs of their growing wealth. This increased the need for home help from female migrant workers as it is culturally not common for Kuwaiti women to be domestic workers. Moreover, cases of ill-treatment and exploitation of domestic workers are everyday events in Kuwait. One of the main challenges facing domestic workers in Kuwait is the Sponsorship system that links their legal status with their employers. This system can create weakness and balance of power as some employers may take advantage of their authority, reserve workers’ passports, and restrict their movement. The Sponsorship system in Kuwait is closely related to the issue of selling domestic workers on websites. The authoritarian dynamic between employers and employees creates an environment conducive to exploitation and abuse. Selling domestic workers online reduces an individual to a commodity that lacks self-freedom and the ability to act and is subject to the mood of its buyer. It is a shameful practice that ignores the inherent dignity and innate value of every human being.

Many websites sell domestic workers, including the open market, advertisements, clothing, forestry, and my server, among the most important pioneers of classified websites that enable users to buy and sell various goods, products, and services within the shortest possible time. Moreover, domestic workers are sold through the open market at trading rates between 500 – 1500 Kuwaiti dinars. This practice is also common in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where domestic workers are offered for sale at prices ranging between 500 – 1000 Saudi riyals. The disturbing and horrific practice of selling domestic workers on websites involves displaying personal data for these workers, such as photos, nationality, length of stay in Kuwait, and the reasons offered to sell them or replace their sponsor. These sites that operate outside the legal frameworks exploit the weakness of domestic workers by treating them as commodities. Including personal details such as photos and nationality violates the privacy and dignity of domestic workers and promotes a culture of criminalization. These sites reinforce harmful stereotypes and discriminatory practices by reducing individuals to mere visual representations and highlighting their national origin. Individuals selling domestic workers are government officials, including police officers or individuals holding government positions. In one case, a police officer sold a domestic worker via a website, and the buyer was advised to confiscate the worker’s passport. This confirms the involvement of individuals with authority and influence in enhancing this issue and the complex nature of human trafficking. The involvement of government officials in the sale of domestic workers underscores the need for fundamental reforms in the system, including strengthening accountability mechanisms to address corruption and abuse of power. Efforts should be made to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals involved in these heinous practices, regardless of their position or affiliation. This includes educating individuals about their rights, enhancing transparency and integrity within government institutions, and fostering a culture of intolerance of corruption and exploitation.

The results of the secret investigation conducted by BBC News showed a shocking fact about buying and selling domestic workers online in Kuwait. The report revealed a thriving black market where these vulnerable individuals are treated as tradable commodities. Many technological platforms such as Google Play Store and Apple Applications Store have appeared in the mediating role of these illegal practices, although there are directives prohibiting this. It is possible to find these websites through giant technological companies such as Google, which plays an essential role in shaping electronic scenes and faced criticism because of the unintended contribution to enabling sites that sell domestic workers. Although these platforms may not directly support these activities, their algorithms and advertising systems have been used to enable the emergence and promotion of human trafficking. Technological companies are responsible for asserting that their platforms do not inadvertently contribute to human rights violations or become a foothold for illegal activities. They can contribute to a safer and more responsible online environment by prioritizing ethical considerations and protecting human rights. Moreover, cooperation between technology companies, governments and civil society organizations is crucial in combating the sale of domestic workers over the Internet. It also requires regular monitoring, reporting mechanisms and accountability for the responsibility of technology companies to allow these sites to operate. These publications attract potential buyers and contribute to illegal trade and thus increasing the cycle of exploitation and abuse. The decentralized nature of Twitter, with millions of users and many publications, poses significant challenges in effectively monitoring and preventing these activities. However, it is imperative that Twitter, as a responsible technical company, take more robust measures to discover and remove content related to the sale of domestic workers and human trafficking. By exchanging information, resources, and expertise, they can develop strategies to combat the sale of domestic workers on the platform. Moreover, it is necessary to interact with communities affected by human trafficking and raise awareness among users about the seriousness of this issue to contribute to its prevention.

Selling domestic workers online is not only a disgraceful act, but it also directly contradicts the teachings of Islam and the values and culture of the Kuwaiti people. Kindness and giving are one of the most important aspects of Kuwaiti culture, and treating others with dignity and respect is part of its fundamental values. The Islamic religion attaches great importance to justice, compassion, and fair treatment for all individuals, including domestic workers who occupy an important position among vulnerable individuals. One of the main factors supporting the continuation of this practice is to reduce the value of domestic or non-Kuwaiti workers and treat them with less than humanity. These perceptions create an environment that allows exploitation and promotes the sale of domestic workers. Therefore, it is necessary to realize the inherent value and importance of every human being, regardless of their nationality, job, or social status. To address this issue, a comprehensive approach must be taken that includes legal reforms, educational initiatives, and awareness campaigns. Tougher regulations are required, and tougher penalties are imposed on those involved in selling domestic workers online. In addition, a culture of respect, compassion, and equal treatment for all individuals, regardless of their background, must be promoted. On a personal level, individuals can contribute to changing this situation by caring for domestic workers, ensuring their rights and dignity, and aiding if needed. On the social and governmental level, awareness about this issue can be enhanced through awareness and educational campaigns. In short, dealing with domestic workers and individuals in general must be based on the values of respect, justice and mercy, and societies promote a culture of sympathy, tolerance, and equality for all. 

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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