Ruth Odima, a Kenyan woman, contacted This Is Lebanon on 8 September 2018 because her employers, Bilal Bou Khaled and Meriam Kassem, allegedly hadn’t paid her since July 2017 and they had let her papers expire in 2017. This meant that she was working illegally, and could potentially have been arrested at any time. During her time working for Bilal and Meriam, Ruth alleges that she had no days off; her passport was confiscated (this is an illegal practice); she had no personal space; she was physically abused and sexually harassed; and she wasn’t paid her salary.
Bilal kept telling her he had purchased her a ticket to go home, but when This Is Lebanon rang the travel agent to check, she said they were only bookings, and nothing had ever been paid for. Bilal had told Ruth to accept half of the $4000 she was owed and he would send the rest when she got home.
This Is Lebanon contacted Bilal to give him a chance to respond to the allegations. He was initially cooperative and made excuses about why Ruth hadn’t traveled, but as time passed and he hadn’t sent her home, he became less co-operative and more aggressive.
“The paper [Ruth’s documents] has been difficult to take it and to fix it up.” - Bilal
“I will pay for her when she goes. But don’t worry, she’s good.” and Bilal reassures us that he now has a new maid to abuse and harass: “and I have a maid, an extra maid, who work now in my apartment.”
Ruth contacted Meriam Kassem multiple times to try and get her money once she was home. She promised to remit the money gradually every week. This was her response:
Ruth says she was sexually harassed by Meriam’s father, treated like an animal, and sent home without $1,500 of her salary. The Filipino who worked for them before Ruth allegedly ran away. Now there is a new Ethiopian worker, and she has no access to a phone. What will happen to her? Will Ruth ever get her salary? She has appointed a lawyer in Lebanon but the judicial system is slow and seldom gives justice to domestic workers. Watch this space.
Update: June 6, 2020
In a recent interview carried out with Ruth, she revealed that Bilal sexually abused her requesting sex in exchange for money and gifts then masturbating on her hand when she refused.