Maid abuse is no longer a new issue in Malaysia. What is maid abuse? It is known as an assault and coercive behaviour, which mainly includes physical, psychological and at times sexual too, by employer or household members of employer against a person hired as a domestic help. Malaysia is one of wealthiest countries in South East Asia and therefore acts as magnet for migrants fleeing here to work. In Malaysia, majority of the domestic workers are full time workers and most of them come from neighbouring poor countries. There are various factors that lead to maid abuse in Malaysia.
The unfortunate thing is that maid abuse does not only cause both mental and physical injuries to the maids, but it also jeopardize our international friendship with countries involved. Hence, there is an urgent need to solve this social issue. One of the major causes of maid abuse over here in Malaysia is the lack of comprehensive national policies for maid protection by our Malaysian Government. As pointed out by D’Cruz (2009), foreign domestic workers here are vulnerable as they lack of legal protection, which subjects them to any kind of working condition an employer sees fit.
There is also no specific law in Malaysia on violence against domestic workers (wao. com. my). As stated by Lourdes (2008), maids are stuck in a Catch -22 situation because the second they seek for help from the authorities, their employers or agents will lodge reports against them. The Employment Act provides them the right to redress but the Immigration Acts removes it by making them illegals living here. According to Dass (2008) in Lourdes (2008), the employers will be informed by the agents that maids who misbehave would be given counselling but this counselling turns up to be filled with punishing and abusing.
Maids are being told that if they repeat their mistakes, they will be sold into prostitution. Other than that, they are slapped and beaten in beaten in front of others so that the rest will feel threatened. In addition, the maids’ very own attitude too, contributed to the many cases of maid abuse. They are not serious in their work and as an example, according to Ho, his maid washed one bucket of the family’s clothes and hid the other behind the house under a shed below the mango tree. There are maids who also tend to take advantage of their employers by stealing things and using stuff without permission.
Based on Ho’s statement, many of his family’s belonging including his underwear have been stolen by his maid before. This is just a real life example of what may lead to why employers lash out all their temper by abusing the maids. The abusive mindsets and attitudes towards maids too, contribute to maid abuse. Many Malaysians have negative perceptions of migrant domestic workers which contributes to the frequency and severity of abuse. They are often viewed as culturally inferior, sometimes “less than human”, and not considered as deserving of the same respect and consideration given to other human beings (wao. com. my).
Adiwara stated that Malaysians have the tendency to look down on Indonesians because of the economic gap between the two neighbouring countries. Employers misjudge the performance of the maids and scold them unnecessarily and this may be due to some shortcomings in the employers themselves. There are certain employers who are concerned that there might be a rift between the child and parent when the children are culturally influenced by the maids (wao. com. my). Another party that should be put to blame for is the involvement of non-professional maid recruitment services, or more generally known as the maid agencies.
According to Wong (2008) in Azizan (2009), a lot of money will be charged by the maid agencies and in order to meet the market demand, a few of the agencies will hunt for girls from the village, get them cleaned up and will send them right away to their respective clients without any training. This issue of untrained maids is supported by the Malaysian Association of Foreign Mai Agencies (PAPA) president Alwi Bavutty as he admits that PAPA is hold responsible for the maids. Throughout so many years, there are quite a number of negative effects that are being identified which are caused from maid abuse and many people are reatly affected by all these consequences.
One of the major negative effects and is usually published in local newspapers are that the victims suffer both mentally and physically from maid abuse. As stated by D’Cruz (2009), the types of physical abuse are they are beaten, raped or tortured with hot boiling water. To make matters worse, there are several maid abuse cases where babies are born from the result of rape. Besides that, nearly all maid abuse victims have been treated like slaves. According to D’Cruz (2009), they are given only plain rice, several occasions with non-halal food even for those who are Muslims.
Lourdes (2008) too, states that permanent working hour, termination benefits, sick leave, rest days, public holidays, overtime and every other benefit that a normal employee is entitled to are not provided to them. To further add on, as mentioned by D’Cruz (2009), the victims are not paid wages for months or even years of tiring work. All of the above clearly violates basic human rights and the employers need to be taken into action legally. Negative effect is also present during the legal process to claim their rights as it is mentally damaging for the victims as stated by D’Cruz (2009).
It is hard for them to avoid depression as they are forced to put their lives on hold while reliving the trauma of the abusive days. Referring to Earth Times (2009), the economy and lifestyle of the community will be disturbed due to maid abuse. For example, Malaysia maid agencies are predicted to suffer massive losses due to Indonesian’s indefinite ban on sending maids over. This will somehow affect the productivity of Malaysia’s economy since because a large amount of domestic help comes from Indonesia.
Apart from that, lifestyle of the community will be disturbed as tens of thousands of household would face difficulties due to the delay in the arrival of their maids and this would lead to a larger obstacle in the long run as families will have a hard time coping with work and family without any extra hands. Subsequently, relationship between countries involved will be jeopardized. As emphasized by The Star (2009), In Malaysia, when maid abuse became a hot topic among both Indonesians and Malaysians, it resulted in causing Indonesia taking a serious action of threatening to temporarily stop sending heir people to work in Malaysia.
This has caused the political relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia to become awkward and it took a lot of effort to restore the friendship between the two countries. The maid abuse cases which were made known internationally have indirectly portray Malaysia as a cruel country. Every problem has its’ own solution and this goes to maid abuse too. This problem can be curbed through the roles of government and community. Both have to perform their roles in order to overcome this issue. The government can tackle issues related to the interest and welfare of maids.
For instance, the government may to resort into measures like conducting random checks on homes. Through this, the early signs of mistreatment can be detected which will prevent this issue from getting worse. Referring to Boo (2010), there are no simple solutions in solving the issue of maid abuse. The solutions in the end lead to the importance of education and enforcement. An agency responsible in managing the welfare of maids should be set up as a channel for the maids to know who to contact and how to report against their bosses who abuse their rights. However, education on their rights needs to be supplied to the maids first.
Cooperation between Malaysian government and related countries such as Indonesia government is important in curbing this problem. As stated by Malaysian Digest (2010), there are several cases involving the abuse of Indonesian maids had been solved through the close cooperation between Malaysian and Indonesian officer It shows that this issue can be solves peacefully as long as both countries are willing to cooperate. Based on Malaysian Digest, (2010), our government and Indonesian government has taken a smart action by signed a Letter of Intent on the sending of Indonesian maids to Malaysia.
This letter requires Malaysian employers to give one day off in a week to their Indonesian workers and their passports be kept by the workers themselves unless agreed upon by both sides that the passport be kept by the employers which occurs in certain cases. This had prevented misunderstanding between the maids and the employers regarding the maids’ day off and passport matters. As suggested by Hariani Azizan (2009), another solution to this problem is through the roles of community. There are quite a number of ways on how the community can help the government to overcome this issue.
For example, authorities can organize a weekly meeting among its community and invite the officers who are experts in the field of the maid’s rights to speak to the maids as well as provide check-ups and counselling for the maids without invading people’s privacy. Another alternative solution is to actually build shelter homes for the maid abuse victims. According to Malaysian Digest (2010), “Rumah Kita”, a shelter home that was launched to provide temporary accommodation and food for Indonesian female migrant workers who are faced with difficulties such as being cheated by employment agencies or abused by their employers.
It is more effective when everyone in their respective neighbourhood take on the role of looking out for any abuse in their community and report them to the authorities. To conclude, there is an urgent need for maid abuse to be curbed as it brings negative impacts to many parties, especially to Malaysia as a whole. Therefore, everyone including the maid themselves must come together as a unit and cooperate to demolish this issue.
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