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Sri Lanka to limit maids working in Saudi Arabia

Sri Lanka will limit the amount of women that go to Saudi Arabia to work as housemaids as outrage continues over Saudi Arabia’s beheading of a Sri Lankan teen. Officials this week raised the minimum age for female domestic workers so that no women under the age of 25 would be allowed to go to Saudi Arabia to work as a maid, said Keheliya Rambukwella, a government spokesman.

Rizana Nafeek
Before her execution, several activists chanted slogans demanding that their government assist in the release of Rizana Nafeek in 2011. Pic/AFP

He did not say by when the total ban would kick in, but said the authorities have started to discourage women from going to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia where most maids are paid less than $300 a month. The move comes after the beheading of housemaid Rizana Nafeek that occurred earlier this month.

Nafeek was 17 when a baby she was caring for in Saudi Arabia died. She was convicted of killing her employers’ son in 2005. The family said she strangled the four-month-old boy after being asked to bottle-feed him, but Nafeek said the infant accidentally choked on milk.

Human rights groups and the Sri Lankan government had lobbied for leniency in the case but on January 9 she was put to death. Saudi officials defended its action days after the execution.“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justifications,” a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency read.

The statement went on to say complaints about the case “draw on false information about the case and are issued without full knowledge of the circumstances of the case itself.” The new rule also raised the minimum age of maids seeking to work in west Asian countries to 21.

Mother forgives over Saudi beheading
The mother of Rizana Nafeek, who was beheaded in Saudi Arabia has forgiven those who she says wanted her daughter executed. A weeping Rafeena Nafeek said she had forgiven the baby’s parents who reportedly insisted on her daughter’s beheading. “There’s no point in blaming anyone — Rizana has gone.” 

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