|Recognise Domestic Work to Reduce Violence|
Tenaganita Press Release
KUALA LUMPUR 27 Nov, 2008: The sentence of 18 years in jail, meted out at Yim Pek Ha, the employer of Nirmala Bonat must bring out a lot of soul searching in how domestic workers are treated and employed in the country.
When Yim was charged with three counts under Section 326 of the Penal Code, for offences against the same victim, Nirmala, the case made legal history as it was the first time the same perpetrator was charged three times for the offence over the same victim.
Will the 18 years imprisonment be a wake up call to employers and to all of us?
It can only become a deterrent if we critically address the conditions that enabled Yim Pek Ha to systematically and continuously harm her domestic worker. The power of the employer to hold her domestic workers passport; the non recognition of Nirmala as a worker under the Employment Act: no off day but work very long hours for 7 days a week ; and kept in isolation gave Yim the confidence and the power to abuse and belief that Nirmala will never be able to seek redress.
It is these conditions that must be addressed. Yim will pay through her jail sentence for the grievous hurt caused on Nirmala.
But it is not only Yim and her family who are responsible. The government is equally responsible. The conditions of work are not regulated. The employer is given the right to hold the passport of the domestic worker. There is neither a law nor a standardized contract to protect Nirmala and all other domestic workers. The government provided the condition of isolation by not giving a paid day off. And consequently, it opened the doors for abuse and exploitation. In fact Nirmala Bonat was in a trafficked situation where she was in servitude, in a form of slavery condition.
The case of Nirmala Bonat may have ended. But there are more and more Nirmalas in our country who are in a vulnerable situation. Tenaganita has handled more than 188 cases of domestic workers who have been abused, raped and exploited with intense human rights violations.
The government must attack the root causes of such forms of abuse and exploitation.
We have launched a campaign to recognize domestic workers as workers. Immediately there is a need to give a paid day off to all domestic workers and a standardized contract that will clearly state the terms and conditions of employment. The Human Resources Ministry can no longer remain silent as it is part of the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers. The Ministry must do justice to more than half a million women who are working as domestic workers in this country.
It is only when domestic workers are recognized as workers and protected through an effective legislation that we can say justice is done to Nirmala and all domestic workers.
Dr. Irene Fernandez
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