The plight of Indonesian domestic workers has once again come under the media spotlight with the beheading of Ruyati binti Sapubi in Saudi Arabia in June 2011.
Ruyati had appealed to her employment agency in Saudi Arabia to remove her from unbearable conditions that included insufficient food, no rest time and withholding of pay by her employer as well as continuous physical and emotional abuse by her employer’s mother. The employment agency threatened Ruyati with violations of her contract if she left. Trapped and unable to bear the abuse, Ruyati killed her employer’s mother and confessed to the crime. After being neglected by her own government as well, Ruyati was beheaded six months later.
Today, 303 Indonesian migrant workers, who like Ruyati suffered abuse and neglect, are on death row awaiting the final and brutal consequence of being abandoned by their government.
In Indonesia, the Government’s insufficient and misguided response is to place a moratorium on deployment to Saudi Arabia in August, as it did with Malaysia in 2009. This paternalistic response will only increase the risk of women being smuggled or trafficked and coming to more harm. Any type of ban by sending or receiving governments only leads migration going underground and workers becoming more vulnerable to rights abuses.
The Indonesian government needs to enforce protections that have been put in place to ensure the rights of workers overseas. If this had been done, Ruyati’s employment agency would have acted with accountability for her wellbeing and removed her due to the breach of contract and infringement of human rights by her employer.
Law No. 39/2004 on Deployment and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers provides full authority to recruitment agencies to recruit, deploy and to “protect”, but it is the government’s obligations to ensure that agencies do not just recruit and deploy. Law No. 39 leads to numerous exploitations such as falsification of identities, high fees, confinement in recruitment agencies and confiscation of travel documents. An agency’s function should be limited to recruitment only, while the government should regulate the fees and ensure protection through MoUs and recognised employment contracts.
Just this month, rights advocates celebrated the Indonesian government changing its position and voting in favour of the newly adopted Convention and Recommendation Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the International Labour Conference. Under Article 15 (1) (c) member states shall adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to provide adequate protection for and prevent abuses of domestic workers recruited by private employment agencies.
Indonesia’s government enjoys enormous benefits from the remittances of migrant workers and from the fees collected by agencies. It is time for the government to act to ensure the employment agencies are taking responsibility for workers under the law. It is also time for the Indonesian government to start taking full responsibility in looking after the welfare of their own people overseas and to stop transferring the protection to recruitment agencies.
The government of Indonesia must ensure that women like Ruyati do not have to resort to violence to get out of situations of extreme human rights abuse. We call on Indonesia to lead the way and ratify the convention and take further action to prevent more women like Ruyati losing their lives.
News report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13878418