Maid 'tortured' with nails to have surgery
A Sri Lankan housemaid with nails embedded in her body is to undergo surgery, her doctors said.
LP Ariyawathie, 49, said her employer in Saudi Arabia inflicted the injuries as a punishment, according to medics at Kamburupitiya Hospital, Sri Lanka.
"She was brought in complaining her Saudi employer drove nails into her body," said hospital director Prabath Gajadeera.
"X-rays showed that there were 24 nails and a needle."
The nails were up to two inches (5cm) long, said Mr Gajadeera.
"There is one nail on the forehead, just under the skin," he added.
Ms Ariyawathie, a mother of three, travelled to Saudi Arabia in March to become a housemaid.
Detail of an X-ray film showing nails in hand of Sri Lankan housemaid Doctors say this X-ray shows nails embedded in the housemaid's hand
Last week, she flew back to Sri Lanka and was admitted to hospital in the south of the island, where she told doctors she had undergone abuse for more than a month.
"When we checked her, we found 24 metal pieces in her legs and hands. She still can't properly sit down and walk," Dr Kamal Weerathunga told BBC Sandeshaya.
Doctors said Ms Ariyawathie was deeply traumatised and unable to give full details of her experience.
But she is not in a serious condition and surgeons are expected to try to remove the metal objects from her body on Friday.
Sri Lankan authorities have told journalists in Colombo that an investigation has been launched.
Around 1.8 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad, 70% of whom are women.
Most work as housemaids in the Middle East, while smaller numbers work in Singapore and Hong Kong.
....Just in case you might think this was an isolated incident....
BBC correspondent in Colombo
"Sometimes she would take a hot iron and burn me or heat up a knife and put it on my body."
Kusuma is still trying to understand why her employer treated her this way when she had not done anything wrong.
Kusuma says that one day her employer just tired of her. The employer said they were going to the police station and that Kusuma would be arrested.
Instead she just put her on a plane back to Sri Lanka, knowing she would never be prosecuted for torturing her.
Sri Lankan Minister of Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe assures maids that the government "has been taking these issues up with the relevant authorities and they have been in the main responding positively".
However, labour activists say it is essential Sri Lanka operates a blacklisting system for rogue employers.
The minister says that will depend on the co-operation of the Saudi authorities, who have not yet agreed.
A recent survey by Colombo University found a quarter of Sri Lankan maids had suffered problems such as abuse or lack of payment while abroad.
Soma, Sri Lankan maid
The Bureau of Foreign Employment runs a counter at Colombo airport to help returning maids with problems.
It says on average 50 a day come back in distress.
Lebanon does operate a blacklist system for bad employers, but that did not help 41-year-old Soma, who recalls repeated rapes by the 18-year-old son of her female employer.
"When I went to his bedroom he closed the door and removed my clothes and his. When I tried to resist he threatened to kill me," she says.
Soma says she begged him to spare her on the grounds that she had a son his age.
"Another day, his four friends came to the house. When I took tea to the room they closed the door and kept me on their laps and started to touch my body and abuse me," she says in tears. All the men then raped her.
There was little comfort from Soma's employer, who seemed to think she had employed a prostitute for her son rather than a cleaner for her house.
"I complained to his mother and she just said, 'I will give you pills to make sure you don't get pregnant' and she beat me."
Soma eventually escaped from the flat and walked for four hours until she met by chance a Sri Lankan couple who took her home, fed her and took her to the embassy.
Although the rapes were reported to the embassy and police, Soma was just put on a plane home. Nothing happened to her rapists.
"We are not in a position to say, 'Look here, ensure that all of these things are in place otherwise we will not send our people'," says Minister Samarasinghe about the need for better insurance and health cover if something does go wrong.
Training the maids about what to expect is a key issue.
"If a person is trained at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, I don't see that person will have a problem," says Shoaib Abdeen, who runs the Mount Lavinia school for maids.
The government says all women going to Arabic countries have to take basic language courses and learn cooking.
Those going to the more lucrative markets of Singapore, Hong Kong and Cyprus get extra classes like map reading.
The maids are advised not to run away from their employer if they encounter problems but maintain a positive attitude.
Given the high failure rate of women workers overseas, it might be better to teach an escape plan should the need arise.
For legal reasons Kusuma and Soma are not the maids' real names