An Ethiopian woman worked in Dubai as a maid. The 24 year old woman was only identified by her initials A.M. has done her job but was not paid on time.
From time to time she asked her boss for her money but they refused to pay her. Without any other place to go the maid stayed at her boss’s house hoping to get paid someday.
After three months of working without pay the family threw her out of their house. Before she left the house for the last time she asked for the salary she was owed for the previous three months, so she can send money to her family in Ethiopia, but she was told that her boss did not have the money.
After being kicked out, she had nowhere to go and did not know how to get to the agency that brought her to the UAE. "I found myself thrown away and I thought of my poor family back home. I felt desperate. I became suicidal and without thinking I just walked to the middle of the two-way street,” she said.
While she was standing in middle of the road near the Al Jahith School, a police officer drove past her when he spotted A.M. on the road. He stopped to talk to her. "I asked her why she was standing there and I informed her it was wrong to do so, I finally convinced her to step aside."
After rescuing her, she was arrested and informed that suicide is illegal under Sharia law, and the federal penal code in the United Arab Emirates punishes those who try to commit suicide with up to six months in jail and a fine.
Later the court found her guilty of attempting suicide and fined her $275. It is true that by standing in traffic A.M. put others in danger as well as herself. Yet what does one accomplish by punishing a desperate and disorientated woman by applying a fine that she has no way to pay?
Sadly, abuse of migrant workers is a common problem in the United Arab Emirates. A study by Human Rights Watch found at least 26 suicides alone of Indian migrants last year. In another case last week, an Asian maid in the emirate of Fujairah confessed to trying to poison herself with soap powder after getting into a dispute with her boss’s wife.
That maid was charged with attempted suicide and ordered to serve a month in prison.