The Ethiopian maid, whose abuse at the hands of Lebanese men was captured on video on a busy street in front of the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut, hanged herself on Wednesday.
The video, which depicted the beating of Alem Dechasa, 33, sparked outrage when it was aired on Lebanese television. Footage showed Dechasa being beaten, dragged by her hair and forced into a car. According to France 24 the primary abuser was identified as Ali Mahfouz, owner of a maid employment agency. Dechasa was indebted to the agency for bringing her to Lebanon illegally.
Mahfouz was arrested briefly but then released, after saying he was trying to take Dechesa to the airport for deportation. He said Dechasa had tried to commit suicide and denied beating her in spite of the video evidence. He said his plans to take her to the airport were thwarted when police intervened and took her to the psychiatric hospital where she killed herself a few days later, by hanging herself with a sheet.
Global Voices report thousands of Ethiopian women seek employment in the Middle East each year, many ending up in the hands of illegal traffickers. In many instances employers withhold pay, confiscate passports, beat and rape the women. As in many countries in the Middle East, Lebanese use the sponsorship system which is open to abuse by employers who may hold the domestic workers in practical servitude, with the status of the immigrant's residency linked to their sponsor.
The Ethiopian government does not enforce legislation protecting the rights of migrant workers. Apetitionby Ethiopian citizens to stop the abuse of female workers in the Middle East says until the government enforces legislation to protect their rights "migrant and trafficked women will continue to commit suicides, face abuses, and remain trapped on foreign soil."