Saturday, April 24, 2010

Specially designed office for "Servants' sale"

In my daily search for an apartment in Beirut I come across the weirdest shit ever. But just when you think that you've seen it all already, there is always something more...

The screenshot you see above, is from the online version of Al-Waseet, a classifieds magazine in Lebanon. It advertises for an office in Beirut which is "suitable for a 'servants' or engineering office". And yes in Lebanon they refer to migrant domestic workers as "servants".

What puzzled me is that they would advertise for an office this way, what is so specific about a "servants' office"? All I knew is that this ad is racist, simply put.

Later on, and after a conversation with Simba Russeau, I was left with even more bitterness. The ad didn't really surprise her, she told me that recruitment agencies (which in Lebanese translates to "servants' office") "store" before they "sell" them. The room needs to be separated from the office where they welcome potential customers.

Her words were harsh but it wasn't as bad as the stories she told me about women that were sexually and physically abused during the "storage" phase and how they are often crammed in overcrowded rooms in horrible conditions.

Her words also echoed with stories I had heard from friends who have domestic assistance, they on the other hand didn't know about the "storage space", but they told me about how they were handed catalogues of the "merchandise", they are often assisted by a woman who is usually a migrant herself. She would help them choose the servant they want, according to their preferences regarding skin complexion, religion, degree of beauty, degree of obedience, language proficiency and of course age.

Now doesn't this remind you of the slave-market practices centuries ago?

This blogpost is part of the 24/7 Campaign

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