Lebanon’s economic crisis, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the port explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, has made life worse for marginalized populations, not least for migrant domestic workers, the majority of them women from African and Asian countries. Many have reported increased incidents of abuse by their employers during the lockdown, and at least seven have taken their own lives since March. Migrant domestic workers remain excluded from Lebanon’s labor law protections provided to other workers, and their legal status remains tied to their employer under the kafala (visa sponsorship) system.
On October 14, 2020, Lebanon’s State Shura Council, the country’s top administrative court, delivered a sharp blow to migrant domestic workers’ rights when it struck down a new standard unified contract adopted by the Labor Ministry on September 4. The new contract introduced new protections for migrant domestic workers, including vital safeguards against forced labor, and would have been an important first step towards abolishing the abusive kafala system.