Katrina Jorene Maliamauv reflects on the brutal death of a domestic worker, Mautik Hani, at the hands of callous employers. Mautik had dreams to chase; questions to ask; memories to share. Her life has been snuffed out now … but do Malaysians care?
Who is Mautik Hani?
I write this in reflection of Mautik Hani, the 36-year-old Indonesian domestic worker who died here yesterday after suffering serious injuries due to severe abuse by her employers. She was so brutally beaten, and then kept locked in the toilet for several days. When she was found, her backbone and right wrist were broken, her body was bruised, her face swollen, and a wound on her right leg so severe, her bone was visible. Google “Mautik Hani” for more news reports. The police say they are investigating it, a Minister said on the news yesterday that this was “merely an isolated incident, while the other thousands of domestic workers in this country are fine”. Thousands may not “die from brutal beatings” every day, but we didn’t get to this point by chance.
My thoughts on this are below.
Who is Mautik Hani?
Do we care?
This is who she is not:
She is not a ‘statistic.’
She is not an ‘isolated incident’.
Mautik Hani was a woman.
She was a daughter; she was someone’s friend.
Somebody called her ‘my neighbour’; another called her ‘my sister’.
Mautik Hani had dreams to chase;
questions to ask; memories to share.
There were things that made her sad;
and there were things that made her laugh.
She had feelings; she had ideas; and she had gifts to share
Her body could be flooded with pain, or pierced with joy.
She carried burdens, and somewhere, she bore hope.
Mautik Hani was a person.
No different from you,
No different from me.
We asked her in.
And then we let her die.
Bruised. Beaten. Her bones exposed.
The smell of rotting flesh permeated the air.
Bound. Gagged. Unconscious.
Her body weary; attacked; abused.
She slipped away from consciousness.
As did we.
In the past two years, Tenaganita has handled 265 cases of domestic workers who’ve been beaten, raped, deprived of wages, harassed, violated, kept in isolation, tortured and abused. While we’ve been able to get some compensation for cases of unpaid wages, not a single case of violence or abuse has gone to court or been brought to justice.
Police investigations are sluggish, court systems inaccessible, and processes drag on endlessly. Often, the victims drop the cases out of weariness, and go home as the final tethers of hope snap. Some wait persistently, stuck in the hole of trauma, each passing day taking away with it possibilities of justice.
We see the numbers grow, we watch the statistics swell, and we close our eyes as the perpetrators walk away.
The stories of these women are horrific;
Lacerations on the vagina.
Forced to eat cockroaches.
Mouth stuffed with chilies.
Face attacked with a fish scraper.
These stories are real. These women are real. Each one is testament to the reality we’ve created around us.
We keep these women unseen and unheard, invisible from the world. They are present only when we want them to work for us, and yet we won’t even recognise what they do as ‘work’.
We are so afraid they’ll run away; we convince ourselves they’ll pick up ‘diseases’ and infect us. We tell ourselves that we’re just protecting our families. We quietly feel superior to them. We don’t let them speak to the neighbours. We worry when they have friends. We feel their work is simple, and yet we don’t do it ourselves. We throw a fit when we need to work on weekends, yet we won’t even grant them a day off. We expect pay raises, and cluck our tongues in shock when they ask for it. We hear about ‘a maid who was abused’ and quickly share the story about ‘the maid who stole from her employer’. We look at the way our friends treat them, convince ourselves that ‘we’re not like that’ and yet we stay silent about it.
This is not a generic ‘we’. It’s a ‘we’ made up of you, of me, of your sister, your friend, your husband, your wife, your boss, your neighbour, your father, your teacher — every person in this country is contained in that ‘we’. Make no mistake of this; we let this happen.
We let this happen because we’ve ignored the thousands of signs that have led to this point. Signs contained in domestic workers whose wages were never paid, who’ve been kept in isolation, who’ve been made to work every day of their lives, who’ve been slapped, who’ve been burned, who’ve been put down. Do a thousand domestic workers need to die before we decide it is enough? Or have we removed ourselves so far from our conscience that this becomes something we merely wince at but stay silent about?
Our actions have harmed these women so severely.
But so have our inactions.
Silence has a way of legitimising violence, and our deafening silence when faced with the realities of domestic workers in our country has done exactly that.
Mautik Hani died at 36 years old from the beatings of her employers.
Mautik Hani also died because we brushed off each case that came before her as an ‘isolated incident’.
We saw the signs, we closed our eyes, and we let her die.
26 October 2009