Without Protection: How the Lebanese Justice System Fails Migrant Domestic Workers
On December 9, 2009, a Lebanese criminal court sentenced a Lebanese woman to 15 days in jail for repeatedly beating Jonalin Malibago, her Filipina maid, three years earlier. Lebanese newspapers hailed the case a landmark victory for the country’s estimated 200,000 migrant domestic workers (MDWs), many of whom report abuse at the hands of their employers. The case illustrated the positive role that the judiciary can play in protecting MDWs, even though the sentence was lenient given the violation. But it also raised at least one significant question: was the Malibago verdict a rare instance of an employer being held to account for abuses against MDWs or was it part of a broader pattern of successful prosecutions?
This report seeks to answer that question. To do so, Human Rights Watch reviewed 114 Lebanese judicial decisions in which MDWs were either plaintiffs or defendants, and interviewed MDWs who reported abuse as well as lawyers who regularly take up their cases. It finds that the Lebanese judicial system is failing to protect the rights of MDWs, and that while Malibago’s case is by no means unique in holding an employer accountable for mistreatment, too many other workers do not receive justice.