Sondos al-Qattan, a beauty blogger and social media star from Kuwait, caused international outrage recently after her derogatory comments about Filipino ‘guest workers’ went viral.
Al-Qattan’s short Instagram video, now deleted, expressed her disgust that her ‘servants’ are now legally required to have a day (yes a whole day) off each week, and keep their passports with them at all times.
Kuwait, like some other countries in the Gulf region, employs the controversial ‘Kafala‘ system, which gives local employers wide-ranging powers over migrant workers in the construction and service industries. Kuwait’s booming oil-based economy relies heavily on foreign workers, mostly from places like India, the Philippines and Bangladesh, who make up two-thirds of Kuwait’s population of 4.5 million. 90% of Kuwaiti households employ and ‘sponsor’ foreign domestic workers, and abuses of the system are widespread.
As well as routinely having passports and salaries withheld, workers are unable to leave or change jobs without their employers’ consent. Some cases have involved physical and sexual assault, even murder, with the ‘guest worker’ having little legal assistance to rely on. The system is seen by many as a modern form of slavery, and has become the source of diplomatic tension between Kuwait and the Philippines over the way Filipino domestic workers have been treated. The Philippines have now imposed a total ban on new workers seeking employment in Kuwait, pending investigation into several suspicious deaths.
Al-Qattan’s rant has brought a renewed focus on this problematic situation, and people are demanding that high-profile brands that she works with drop her immediately. The star, who has 2.3 million followers on Instagram, offered an apology and explanation for her outburst, urging people not to judge her without knowing her personally. “Don’t judge a person without full understanding of the situation,” she wrote. Just because you don’t agree, doesn’t mean that you’re right!”
NGO Migrante International, which represents Filipino overseas workers and campaigns for their rights, was scathing in their response to the situation. “By projecting herself as a slave-owner, Sondos exhibits intoxication in her overinflated ego and false sense of superiority,” they wrote. “She should have known by now that workers have rights too and they deserve just and humane treatment from their employers. Instead, Sondos continues to cling to a backward outlook which literally belongs to the dark ages.”
What do you think about al-Qattan’s outburst, and the continuing use of the Kafala system? Scroll down below to learn more, and let us know what you think in the comments.
This is Sondos al-Qattan, a famous Kuwaiti social influencer with 2.3M followers on Instagram
She recently posted this video responding to new laws about Filipino workers
The law was changed after the death of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina domestic worker murdered in Kuwait
Image credits: Richard Madelo
People instantly accused her of slavery and demanded a public apology
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Max Factor Arabia, Chelsea Beautique, M Micallef and some other brands have already dropped Sondos, but people are calling out for more
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And they are still enraged
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Image credits: rodmarmol