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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Malaysia Frees Indonesian Maids 'Held Against Will'

December 03, 2012
Young Indonesian women at a training centre for domestic maids near Jakarta, Indonesia - The Star/Asia News Network 
Young smiling faces of women drawn from poor impoverished parts of South East Asia are a poor indication of the peril that is the domestic service profession; an industry that in theory called into existence by a gap in labour shortages created by the supply and demand trends within the market economy. Domestic servants or "maids" may often be trained to become efficient at their formal duties and tasks as ascribed for them by their agents and in their job specifications but little else in the way of affording safeguard mechanisms and protection against the oft reported instances of physical and sexual abuse that pervade and plague the industry. The horrors and cruelties that accompany the life of a maid may sometime be treated by authorities concerned as exceptional occurrences rather than the norms, and that provided the same authorities continue to gain economically from her exploitation and employment, the same risks and cruelties are overlooked and downplayed, backed by references to hard evidence and statistics that show a generally normal beneficial picture of many a happy maid. In fact, the horrors and violence that produced the headlines are exceptional only in the manner in which they managed to be reported at all; there must have been - and still be - countless instances of the violence involving rape, physical torture, overwork and so forth that have gone - are going - under the radar. Why is this so? Partly, this has to do with the jargons and language of economics of the day itself as well as the underlying complicity and mutual satisfaction and consensus in force between national governments and states over the issue in question. Disguised as domestic workers or maids these otherwise extremely vulnerable [mostly] young women are victims of a highly organised criminal trade in human-trafficking: they are there to perform the role of both the domestic slave labourer and the odd duties of the "sex worker" , and whilst the attendant risks are doubled for them, the law and the language sanitise the cruelties and thus legitimise the experiences that abound in practice. Does it somehow soothe our civilised conscience, or a fellow being endowed with fitting professional dignity if a 'prostitute' instead of being known as a prostitute is described as a "sex worker" or a "maid", for that matter? - School of Vice

Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities have freed 105 mostly Indonesian maids who were forced to work without pay by day and held against their will at night, local media reported on Monday. 

The women were freed on Saturday in a raid on a building near the capital Kuala Lumpur where they had been held by their employment agency, said the reports, in a case sure to feed anger among Malaysia's neighbors over recurring reports of foreign maids being abused in the country. 

The 95 Indonesians, six Filipinas and four Cambodians had entered Malaysia in recent months on social visit passes that do not confer the right to work legally in the country, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, officials were quoted saying. 

Authorities involved in the case could not immediately be reached. 

The Star newspaper said the women were locked up in three floors of a building in the state of Selangor. They were sent every morning to houses in the area to work as domestic helpers but were confined at night, it quoted Selangor immigration department director Amran Ahmad as saying. 

The newspaper said some of the women claimed the agency took their pay as an advance payment equal to seven months' wages for the recruitment services. Their monthly wages were 700 ringgit ($230) it said. 

Twelve people were arrested over their confinement, it added, including three Malaysian men, five Indonesian women, three Cambodian women and one Filipino woman.

Malaysia, which has some of Southeast Asia's highest living standards, has been a magnet for women from Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia who seek work as maids. However, Indonesia imposed a ban on sending maids to Malaysia three years ago over numerous cases of women being abused by their employers or recruiters. 

Indonesia, the main source of domestic workers for Malaysia, announced last December it would lift the ban after the two countries agreed to better protect maids, but new incidents have continued to rankle Jakarta. 

In October, an advertisement in Malaysia that offered Indonesian maids "on sale" went viral online in Indonesia, sparking new outrage. 

Last month, police said they were investigating a man in northern Malaysia for allegedly raping his 15-year-old Indonesian maid, while in a separate case, three police officers were charged in November with raping a 25-year-old Indonesian woman at a police station. 


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