Albion Monitor /News

Mexican Women "Sold" as Servants in Israel

by Diego Cevallos

Taken to Israel on false pretenses
(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- Five thousand dollars is the price paid in Israel for a female Mexican domestic servant, a person to be kept in virtual slavery, much as they are back home.

Six women "sold" into domestic service in Israeli families were rescued by Mexican consular authorities after lodging complaints of mistreatment, discrimination and confinement, according to reports released last month.

The authorities are investigating various people allegedly responsible for the crime, forming part of a pattern which has been increasing over recent years.

The women who were dealt with by the authorities and repatriated to Mexico, were taken to Israel on false pretenses, and it is thought many more are suffering similar treatment there.

"What is happening in Israel can also be seen in many other countries. However, the situation of domestic workers is also practically slavery in our own country," said Carmen Saavedra, coordinator of the non- governmental Colectivo Atabal.

"The female domestic workers are at the back of the bus. There are few people and organizations concerned about their situation"
Around two million women work as domestic employees in Mexico. The majority receive a salary lower than the minimum and have no right to social security, holidays, limited working hours nor maternity leave.

A high percentage of these women come from the southern states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the poorest in the country, these workers are subject the arbitrariness of their bosses, who decide on which rights they have and how they live.

An investigation by the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Domestic Workers indicated a high percentage of domestic employees in the Mexican capital also suffer from aggression at work and sexual harassment.

In Mexico, a female servant living outside the house where she works will be paid between $6 - 14.5 per day, while those living and working in the same place earn around $120 a month.

"We have been fighting for years for the living conditions of female domestic servants to be improved, but they are still the ugly duckling of Mexican society and we have received no reply," said Eva Soto, representative of the National Organization of Non- Salaried Domestic and Related Workers.

Based on studies in the field, the Colectivo Atabal said 75 percent of female domestic workers in the capital come from rural areas, 28 percent are aged 40 or over, half are single, two out of three barely finished primary school and 4 percent are illiterate.

"The female domestic workers are at the back of the bus. There are few people and organizations concerned about their situation and we demand changes in the law," said Saavedra.

Hundreds of domestic workers meet up on Sundays in parks and certain public transport stations in the capital to get to know each other, discuss their problems and perhaps get themselves a partner.

It is here that the traffickers approach the youngest workers and suggest they travel to Israel or other countries to work in supposedly better conditions.

The authorities do not know for certain how many Mexican women have been taken to other countries in this manner. At present they are hot on the trail of several networks dedicated to the "sale" of female domestic workers.

Dozens of domestic workers demonstrated in the center of Mexico City on July 27 to demand the authorities consider their situation.

"The issue is not well dealt with, but we are doing everything possible to bring it before the government, the judges and deputies, for we cannot allow employment smacking so much of slavery to continue to exist on the threshold of the 21st century," said Saavedra.

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Albion Monitor January 12, 1998 (

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