Give domestic workers full protection as women and workers

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Domestic workers - Photo credit: freemarket.my

Paul Yong Choo Kiong, Perak state executive councillor, joins the list of hundred politicians around the world who have been charged with rape.

Though (he has) yet to be proven guilty of raping his Indonesian domestic worker, it is another sad day for Malaysia.

Tenaganita applauds the police investigation team and the Indonesian diplomatic mission for the thorough and timely investigation, working towards seeking justice for the affected domestic worker. This action clearly highlights that the rule of law is abided and revered, even if the alleged perpetrator is a Malaysian politician.

Tenaganita further recapitulates that these forms of abuse perpetuated against domestic workers are not isolated in nature or accidental. In the last five years, we have received at least 74 cases of sexual harassment, abuse and rape of migrant women workers and domestic workers in Malaysia.

For far too long, the abuse of domestic workers has been ignored and treated as a secondary issue with no importance, until a severe case is exposed and highlighted, what more of rape of domestic workers. For victims, rape is often worse than death itself.

In all the cases mentioned above, the state was culpable, either out of negligence or direct involvement in the grotesque treatment of women simply because domestic workers were not given the full protection as women and workers in Malaysia.

News reports about the torture and tribulations faced by migrant workers in Malaysia are worryingly prevalent. The lack of recognition of domestic work as work, within isolated, individualised conditions of domestic workers’ lives, eventually leads to abuse and exploitation.

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The non-recognition is further justified because the home is seen as being private and an outsider cannot interfere with the private domain.

This is one of the reasons why separate legislation for domestic workers must be enacted and enforced focusing on the welfare and protection of the rights of domestic workers in Malaysia – above all the recognition of domestic work as work.

As Malaysians, we have an obligation towards all (local and migrant) domestic workers in Malaysia. We have a role to play in ending this vestige of slavery.

The survivor – the affected Indonesian domestic worker, who likely came to Malaysia with high hopes and ambitions of finding honest means of livelihood and supporting her family, faced cruelties she did not deserve. Should these claims be found to be true, there will be no denying that she will have to live with the trauma from the ordeals she has faced.

Tenaganita continues to hope that justice prevails for the affected domestic worker and, if Paul Yong is found guilty, that he be served the harshest of punishments.

Glorene A Das is executive director of Tenaganita.

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