App '4sale' has an in-built feature to filter by nationality Image Credit: Screen grab

Dubai: Social networking sites are being used to illegally "sell" domestic workers in Kuwait.

There is a growing black market taking place through apps hosted by Google and Apple.

Women are also being sold on Instagram as maids under popular hashtags such as #TransportMaids" and #MaidsforSale.

This is completely illegal in Kuwait and banned by the authorities.

The BBC exposed this racket.

The report starts with reporters going through an app called ‘4sale’ and reacting to a post that says in Arabic: “African worker up to be sponsored, 40 years old, good in cleaning and baby-sitting. Available for 700 Dinars” (Dh8,400).

"Up to be sponsored" for residency in Gulf countries that follow the sponsorship system means "changing someone’s sponsorship from one person to another."

'Wake her up at 5am, works all day with no fuss'

The reporter is heard speaking to a Kuwaiti man, who explains that the women, subject of the ad, is a very good cook.

"You can wake her up at 5 am and she won’t even have a problem, works all day long with no fuss," the man said.

The reporter asks to see the women to inspect her.

The reporters, pretending to be a married couple, arrive undercover to check how these things happen.

They are welcomed by a man who asks for a downpayment for the lady.

To make her more appealing, he says that she doesn’t require any days off, or a phone and no going out.

“The most horrible part is seeing the label 'for sale' on these women's pictures when you log in to the apps or navigate social media,” the BBC reporter said.

'Children as housemaids, with altered birthdays'

In another part of the report, a child is being "sold" as a maid. Agents in the home country of these children provide them with passports with altered birthdates before sending them abroad.

The Kuwaiti authorities, according to BBC, summoned the owners of those accounts and ordered them to remove their ads from the Internet.

They were forced to sign a legal obligation not to engage in similar activities in the future.

The increasing black market came as a reaction to the growing rules and regulations on hiring domestic helpers in Kuwait, which gives female domestic workers the following rights:

  • keeping their passports
  • working set number of hours
  • taking one day off a week
  • and 22 days of holiday a year

Fighting slavery

A human rights activist is seen in the report explaining how the blackmarket for housemaids is "slavery" saying: “Because I paid an amount of money for someone’s services, then I own him. This is the idea that we need to fight.”

“Most of these people don’t understand the concept of human trafficking — they don’t own us,” said Ann Abundan, founder of Sandigan, an organization that fights for the welfare and rights of domestic workers in Kuwait.