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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


This text was sent to l'Orient Le Jour by an anonymous author. Although they usually do not publish mail that is unsigned, they chose to make an exception for it:

Elle s’appelle Malaka. Dans ma langue maternelle, son nom signifie reine. Dans la sienne, je ne sais pas. Dans son pays, elle est titulaire d’une licence d’enseignement. Dans le mien, elle est femme de ménage dans un institut de beauté. Sa nationalité, je ne sais pas. Le son et le timbre de sa voix me sont également inconnus. Son regard soumis et son sourire qui ressemble à une cicatrice ne me sont que très familiers. Elle est là à longueur de journée, Malaka. Dans cette pièce minuscule, elle souffre les ordres de sa patronne, et les sautes d’humeur de quelques dizaines de femmes aux sourcils soigneusement épilés et aux ongles fraîchement laqués. Elle est tour à tour accusée de paresse, d’hypocrisie et de lenteur. Elle est prisonnière, Malaka. Une reine enfermée dans un donjon. Quand je lui souris, c’est une cicatrice qui se dessine sur son visage...

English version:

Malaka is her name. It means a queen in my native language. I do not know if it has the same meaning in hers. In her country, she has a teaching degree. In mine, she works as a cleaning lady in a beauty parlor. I do not know what her nationality is. I also do not know how her voice sounds like. I’m only familiar with her obedient look and scar-like smile. Malaka is here all day long. In this tiny room, she puts up with the orders of her boss and the mood swings of a few dozen women with carefully shaped eyebrows and freshly lacquered nails. She is accused of laziness, hypocrisy, and slowness. Malaka is a prisoner, a queen locked up in a dungeon. When I smile at her, a scar appears on her face…

Comments on "Malaka"


Blogger callipyge said ... (3:58 AM) : 

Malaka must be from Sri Lanka or something. There are no words to describe the things these women go through in our country and it makes me so sick to see them treated as 'inferior' beings by many Madames in Lebanon. They work from before dawn to long after dusk. They eat leftovers. Many do not have their own rooms and sleep on the floor of the dining room or the salon. They are allowed in 'beaches' to watch over rich kids playing but are forbidden from entering the pool.
The Lebanese spend so much time and effort to try to keep up with the West. They build tons of new restaurants and night clubs. New shops boasting the latest fashions. They pride themselves in hosting international cultural events. Just like a real evolved country. However, they do not realize that there will be no evolution as long as this racist modern-slavery is legitimized.

I know these women are here because they can make a better pay than they would back home. But a better living? Not for themselves. I wish there was more law-enforcement that would make Lebanese employers of foreign workers accountable for their actions. An organization these women could go complain to if they are hit, abused, overworked, locked up and so on; and that would take care of punishing the culprits.
But in a country that functions on wasta and shows respect for no law, that is mere utopia.


Blogger Zanzounito said ... (7:54 AM) : 


You took the words out of my mouth. The use of modern slaves in Lebanon is absolutely repulsive. Many women in Lebanon claim that they cannot do house chores alone, so that is why they hire cheap labor. It is one thing to hire someone to help you and another to treat them as subhumans. I shudder when I remember that those woman are being treated so poorly in my birth country.


Blogger zwixo said ... (2:56 PM) : 

first congrats on the blog.
(if i'm intruding tell me :))
the article is very well written. but the west isn't like this at all, if someone in germany got a maid, the neighbourhood will make fun of him, the chancellor doesn't have a maid!
it's us dear.


Blogger liminal said ... (8:52 AM) : 

Great idea ladies. I look forward to checking back here often.



Blogger AbdulKarim said ... (12:57 PM) : 

First of all congratulations for the blog.

Now the main issue. I agree that the Lebanese should start treating the Sri Lankens better. As a start, they should get paid the national minimum wage and not less. Their salary should be solely theirs and not shared by their "recruitment agencies". They should be granted full rights any working resident has. I think the parliament has a big role in pushing forwards these human rights reforms.


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