Her comments caused a social media storm this week, after Sondos Alqattan criticized new laws in Kuwait aimed at improving rights for domestic workers. And, despite brands severing ties with her, the Kuwaiti blogger has revealed she believes the subsequent backlash is “unjustified”. Speaking to AFP, the 27-year-old told the news agency her comments did not warrant an apology, adding: “All I said was that the employer was entitled to keep the servant’s passport and that many Kuwaitis and Gulf nationals agree with me.”
Her comments centered around new regulations unveiled in May, as Kuwait and the Philippines inked a deal allowing Filipino workers in the Middle Eastern nation new rights. The reforms saw domestic workers given the ability to retain their passports and cell phones, as well as take one day off per week. Alqattan denounced the new laws in a now-deleted clip shared with her 2.3 million Instagram followers, questioning a worker’s right to a day off. “For her [domestic worker] to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her,” said Alqattan in the now-deleted video, Gulf Business reports. “How can you have a servant at home who gets to keep their passport with them? If they ran away and went back to their country, who’ll refund me? I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”
The clip attracted widespread criticism from her fans and followers, with many taking to social media to call for brands that work with Alqattan to boycott the beauty blogger. Several companies have since suspended their work with the makeup artist, with cosmetics giant Max Factor revealing on Monday it was “shocked by the comments made”. “Max Factor Arabia is taking this incident very seriously and have immediately suspended all collaborations with Sondos,” a spokesperson told Gulf News. Perfume brand M. Micallef and London makeup company Chelsea Beautique also announced they would no longer be working with the influencer.
Alqattan, who has since disabled comments on her Instagram account, stood by her belief that “I have the right as a kafil [sponsor] to keep my employee’s passport”, telling AFP she was “responsible for paying a deposit of up to KWD 1,500 (SAR/AED 18,200 )”. “The servant lives in the house just like the owners, he eats the same food, sleeps, rests and goes out shopping… this is a natural right. He’s not like a waiter who works fixed hours, so we give him a weekly leave,” she added. Migrante Home Office, a group that defends the rights of overseas Filipino workers, has demanded a public apology from Alqattan.
The blogger’s comments came just months after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte temporarily banned the nation’s workers from traveling to Kuwait, following the murder of a Filipino maid in the Gulf nation. According to Arabian Business, there are currently more than 250,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, at least 60 per cent of which are domestic workers.