Sunday, June 20, 2010

Domestic Workers' Blues

Most households in Indonesian cities have one or more Domestic Workers to clean and even guard the house, wash and iron clothes, take care of their children, cook, etc.

The Domestic Workers, a.k.a Pembantu or Servants, would wake up at dawn before their Employers awaken, and sleep after their Employers have their dinner, or even slept.

Many of the said Employers treated their Domestic Workers unkindly, they would scold them when they are wrong and say nothing when they do good things.

Efforts have been made to protect the Domestic Workers but do not seemed to be fruitful. For example,  the Provincial government of Jakarta has issued some by-laws to protect Domestic Workers, but news reports about bad and inhumane treatments still exists. 

The central government has prepared a bill for Protection of Domestic Workers, but unfortunately the House of Representatives (DPR) postponed discussion for unclear reason. 

In order to provide a " bird's eye view " on the sufferings of some of those Domestic Workers, I have quoted an article of The Star (below).

After a grueling, 18-hour day, 15-year-old Kaminah domestic worker would rest her head on a bag filled with blood-stained clothes, sleeping on cold ceramic tiles outside the bathroom.

The blood was her own, from the beatings inflicted by her employer on a daily basis.
“[Whenever I got a beating] I would always think of my family,” Kaminah told The Jakarta Post. “Late at night, before going to sleep, I would think about my father and mother and feel very sad. I miss my parents a lot.”

UNICEF estimates that more 100,000 Indonesian women and children are trafficked annually within the country and abroad, with about one in three being under the age of 18.
Pressured by families or lured with promises of work, an alarming number of girls and women find themselves in conditions of virtual slavery, both within Indonesia and abroad.
A recently released report by the U.S. State department on human trafficking lists Indonesia as a Tier-2 country for trafficking, for not fully complying with standards set by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

“There is a particularly big problem with Indonesian women being trafficked as domestic workers, ending up basically enslaved in conditions in the Middle East, Malaysia, and to a lesser extent countries like Singapore,” says Elaine Pearson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division for Human Rights Watch.

“Part of the problem is that there is not effective oversight of recruitment agencies in Indonesia.”
But for some, the root of the problem lies not with the agencies, but with rampant poverty.

“I really wanted to finish school but we didn’t have enough money to pay for tuition,” another girl, Kiya, told The Jakarta Post. “So I decided to work as a domestic worker and help my family.”


colson said...

People tend to exploit and abuse other people if one has total power and the other is powerless. Empowerment of the Pembantu would be the solution - by banning child-labour below 18 (making employers and parents responsible), by compulsary education free of tuition till 18 ( making parents and municipalities responsible), by labour laws defining the working conditions for domestic workers ( making government and employers responsible). And educating teenagers to speak up fort their rights and creating regional or local complaints offices.

I know, I know. All that all will be a long shot. Because first of all the crying shame of harrowing poverty and inequality has to be dealt with first.

H. Nizam said...

Hi Colson,
It is almost unbelievable that human beings could talk to and/or treat other human being inhumanely just because they are are less fortunate, less educate.
Although it might be difficult to totally ban below 18 child labor and provide compulsory free eduction for them, but there should at least be serious efforts to that direction. The govt. and parliament are too busy focusing on matters which are high profile in preparation for the next election.

umihoney said...

This is truly sad. I abhor such act. If we could be kind to a stray cat or dog why can't we be kind to our fellow human. Domestic help should be recognised as a profession and thus be regulated accordingly to prevent abuse and mistreatment.

H. Nizam said...

If we think carefully and wisely, we owe the domestic worker great favor, i.e. we rely on them for safety and cleanliness of our home, take case of children, cook for us, etc. So it is obvious that their rights should be protected.

MaksiTaksi said...

Oooh that's so sad! I would love to have someone in my household taking care of all kinds of thing so I don't have to do that after a long day of work. I don't know why but everywhere in the world people want to show there power to other people who they think they are less then them.

I hope they will stop labor under the age of 18 for so many hours a day.

Thanks for sharing this story with us. It's good stories like this get attention.

Take care and warm greetings.

not you said...

It's so sad that people can be cruel. keep up with the interesting and informative posts. I think it's really good to get information like this out there, so maybe we can eventually help.

H. Nizam said...

It's really good to have a domestic worker to take care of everything while we are in and out of our house.
But everything in life should be based on mutual respect. For which purpose the domestic worker should be empowered as mentioned by Colson.
Let's hope that more serious efforts will be made to improve the situation in the near future.

@Not You,
Very cruel indeed. Thank you for the kind words.

Kiwi Riverman's Blogesphere said...

A shocking state of affairs. Hope Indonesia can eventually stamp it out. We have some dubious incidents, but have controls to deal with exploitation.


H. Nizam said...

Thank you for your concern. Let us hope that more serious efforts will be made to empower domestic workers in the near future.