STORIES FROM INDONESIAN MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKERS

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Photo’s caption: An Indonesian migrant domestic worker was found dead after she fell down from a high floored apartment in Singapore. Source: Video published by the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower, n.y.


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FROM SINGAPORE: SUICIDES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS

My work was heavy, I worked from 5:30am to 11pm without any rest. .. My food intake was rationed.. I frequently did not feel like eating because I was too stressful, and had no appetite at all. I tried to survive but I became more distressed by the day – a heavy workload, loss of appetite, continuous confinement in the house, shouted at, scolded and beaten.
Eventually I was in despair and it came to a point when I once tried to kill myself. At that time, there was nothing on my mind except committing suicide. I opened the window and I jumped through. I fell from the second floor. I did not know what happened next.

––from an interview conducted by the Institute for Ecosoc Rights with migrant domestic worker 18-year Robingah, from Banyumas, Central Java, Indonesia, working in Singapore in 2001
––Human Rights Watch has published its comprehensive report on the condition of Robingah’s friends in Singapore.

FROM TAIWAN: SEXUAL, PHYSICAL ABUSE

Many migrant workers work 16 to 18 hours a day and can’t get overtime pay. Furthermore, many workers are not given any days off each week. Some female domestic helpers are even raped or physically abused by their employers. These workers are not only victims of the Taiwanese legal system but also victims of physical and sexual abuse.

––O’Neil, the director of Hope Workers’ Center, Taipei, quoted by Taipei Time, 29 Dec 2003

FROM MALAYSIA: PHYSICAL ABUSES

One day, my female employer was angry when I was ironing clothes. She sternly said I failed to neatly ironing them. And she slapped my face at once. She then forcefully took the hot iron from my hands and put it on my breast …

––Story of 19-year Nirmala Bonet, Indonesian domestic worker in Malaysia,Kompas, 21 May 2004

FROM HONG KONG: WORK EXTORTION

Along several months working, I met of problems with my employer. The employer always inhibited my freedom. I could not go out from work place, fully working hours and no time for taking rest. I woke up at 6am and went to sleep at 2am. I might not allow going to sleep less than 10pm and only had once meal in a day. Moreover, I only could eat after finishing my work. I got HK$2,200 (~US$283) every month.

––Puji, Indonesian migrant domestic worker from Magetan, East Java, Indonesia, working in Hong Kong – quoted from Suara Indonesia newspaper, January 2003

FROM MIDDLE EAST: DEATH SENTENCES

Madam… I ask you in the name of God and humanity.. to help me because I have no one who could help me here in Saudi Arabia. My poor family has done everything they could but I believe they have lost hope.. I beg you madam to understand my letter.. In this prison.. we cannot have contact with the outside world, we cannot defend ourselves…

––Siti Zainab, 32-year Indonesian domestic worker, from Bangkalan, Madura, East Java; she was reported to be detained. Migrants in Saudi Arabia are forced to suffer in silence and solitude
––Amnesty International, 2000

FROM JAPAN: WOMEN TRAFFICKING

Just before departure, an agency official asked nice Indonesian girl Dewi to sign a work contract she thought decent. She realized she was not given chance to carefully read it. She just signed it yet only on arrival in Japan did Dewi and her friends know that the contract contained an ac-knowledgement of debt for ¥5 million (~US$ 42,491). The girls were told by their Japanese employers that the amount represented the total costs they had to pay back working in Japan. To pay off so huge a debt Dewi was forced to sell her body. .. Every night Dewi was forced to sleep with visitors to the bar.

–-Tempo newsweekly, January 6-12, 2004

WHAT COULD WE LEARN FROM THESE STORIES?

LEGALIZING SLAVERY IN MODERN WOLRD … Many governments have consented the practice of forced labor or slavery nowadays. You may consider these four facts, firstly, many governments do not recognize the rights of the migrant domestic workers in their respective employment laws; secondly, their consent to the free market regime that everything is subjected to the market mechanism, such as determining wage standard, work placement fees, work conditions, etc.; thirdly, they have also unfairly applied further restrictive measures against migrant work-ers by charging security bonds, deportation, discrimination, and ironically using discourse on trafficking as well, and not chiefly on migrants’ human rights issues, instead; fourth, they allow an exploitative system that takes too high broker and service fees and in turn it conditions appalling women trafficking.

QUOTATION

Forced labor means “.. all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily. ..” (ILO’s No.29 Convention on Forced Labor)

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