Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Stronger rules needed to protect domestic workers

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The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Wed, 02/16/2011 11:45 AM | National

More domestic workers in the country will suffer mistreatment unless the government and the House of Representatives counterparts pass a law on domestic workers protection, activists say.

Many female domestic workers, including women and girls, were living and working under poor conditions, where they were being exploited economically and suffering physical, psychological and sexual violence routinely, said Lita Anggraini, Coordinator of the National Network on Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), on Tuesday.

“They haven’t benefitted from the same rights and protections that other workers receive,” she said.

The Indonesian government had not shown adequate response to the abuse and mistreatment the workers endured, she added.

According to Jala PRT, Indonesia has 10 million domestic workers at home and 6 million abroad, ranking it among the highest number of domestic workers worldwide. Instead of better working conditions, more domestic workers are facing abuse and mistreatment.

Citing the latest data, Lita said abuse and mistreatment of Indonesian domestic workers reached 726 cases in the last five years, including 536 cases of unpaid salary, of which 348 cases affected children domestic workers. Of the 726 cases, 617 involved torture and isolation of the workers at home, making them more vulnerable to mistreatment.

Many domestic workers suffered serious wounds and even died from regular mistreatment. Many cases affecting domestic workers were reported by neighbors.

Apart from torture, domestic workers face other violations of their rights as workers.

Jumiyem, an activist of Serikat PRT Tunas Mulia in Yogyakarta, said many domestic workers were living a far from reasonably comfortable life.

“They face living conditions as if they are slaves. Many of them are underpaid or not receiving wages,” she told The Jakarta Post over the telephone.

Moreover, many workers are facing excessive workloads, unclear job responsibilities, and excessive working hours, reaching between 12 to 16 hours per day, which might negatively affect their health.

Such a strong dichotomy between domestic workers and labor in other sectors has meant unfair and discriminative policies towards domestic workers. Furthermore, they are unable to get legal protection at local, national and international levels.

Amnesty International (AI) said Indonesian domestic workers, which are mostly women and children, are susceptible to exploitation and mistreatment unless the government and its counterparts in the legislature pass a Law on Domestic Workers Protection.

AI’s Asia Pacific Director, Sam Zarifi, said on Tuesday that about 2.6 million Indonesian domestic workers lacked access to legal protection.

“Up to now, domestic workers in Indonesia have not received strong legal protection compared to workers in other sectors,” he said, as quoted by Antara news portal.

He believes the 2003 Law on Manpower has discriminated against domestic workers. This law has not provided equal treatment for domestic workers and workers from other sectors, in terms of working hours and vacation.

Nova Riyanti Yusuf, a member of Commission IX overseeing health, labor, and social issues at the House, said the legislature was prioritizing the draft law on domestic worker protection to be debated this year.

“We face no substantive objections on this draft law,” she said. (ebf)

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