Doctors remove nails driven into maid
August 29, 2010
COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan maid recovering from surgery to remove 19 nails from her body told doctors her Saudi employer had heated the nails before hammering them into her body.
Surgeons at Sri Lanka's southern Kamburupitiya hospital carried out a three-hour operation to remove a needle and 19 of the 24 nails stuck in her arms, legs and forehead.
Hospital director Prabath Gajadeera said the 49-year-old woman, L.T. Ariyawathi, told them her employer inflicted the injuries as punishment for her difficulties in communicating with the household.
''She said her employer heated the nails and then hammered them into her body,'' Mr Gajadeera said.
''The nails were in her arms, legs and forehead.''
He said the woman, who had gone to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid, could not have driven the nails in herself.
''In some places it is clear that someone else had to drive the nails,'' he said.
''We will in any case refer her to a psychiatrist for analysis before discharging her from hospital.''
She was admitted to hospital on Friday after she returned home complaining she was in great pain and unable to walk.
Surgeons at the hospital, 160 kilometres south of Colombo, removed 13 big nails, each about five centimetres long, and six smaller ones, Mr Gajadeera said.
He said the remaining nails were not removed immediately because the procedure might have resulted in serious nerve damage.
The woman, who travelled to Saudi Arabia in March, was deeply traumatised and unable to give full details of her experience initially, but was fast recovering, the doctor said.
''We will discharge her in about three days,'' he said.
Sri Lankan police have begun an investigation.
Officials said Sri Lanka was expected to take up the case of the housemaid with Saudi authorities shortly.
About 1.8 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad, of whom 70 per cent are women. Most work as housemaids in the Middle East while smaller numbers work in Singapore and Hong Kong, seeking higher salaries than they would get at home.
Non-governmental organisations report frequent cases of employer abuse of maids who work abroad.
I just go angrily numb when I read about this kind of cold cruelty. Why is it immigrant workers often seem to be so mistreated in their host countries?
(I must qualify this - by saying I was a foreign worker in the U.S. for a few years, but the 'cruelty to foreign' workers does not seem to apply if you are Australian - but I often noticed a deep disdain for Mexican workers in the U.S. - I just shiver to think how foreign workers are treated in some Middle-Eastern countries)