Wednesday February 11, 2009
Indonesian child domestic staff face abuse - report
By Sunanda Creagh
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's many thousands of underage domestic workers face exploitation, sexual abuse, and overwork because the authorities fail to enforce laws to protect children, a human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.
Many Indonesians have live-in maids who cook and clean, but a report by Human Rights Watch said hundreds of thousands are underage girls, some as young as 11.
The report said a 2002-2003 survey by the International Labour Organisation showed that there are approximately 688,000 domestic workers under the age of 18 in Indonesia.
"There's a wilful blindness on behalf of some government officials who choose to ignore or deny that child domestic workers are exploited and abused," Bede Sheppard, Asia researcher in the Children's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, said in a statement.
Responding to the report, an official at Indonesia's manpower ministry said it accepted there was more work to be done.
"We have already implemented some of these recommendations ... Of course this report focuses on the very worst cases. There are good cases as well that are not in this report," said Laurend Sinaga, an official at the ministry of manpower.
The official said it accepted there should be a ban on workers aged 15 and under, but noted that domestic staff were a special category of worker and sometimes received schooling.
The 78 current or former child maids interviewed in the Human Rights Watch report described 18-hour workdays, sexual abuse by their employers, and conditions tantamount to slavery as they were forced to work for free.
Indonesia's criminal code, labour laws and Child Protection Act are supposed to protect children from exploitation. However, many government officials do not recognise maids as genuine workers but rather as "helpers", the report said.
Many government officials told the authors of the report that it was impossible to monitor what goes on in private homes and that the maids were treated "like family".
Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to create a new law by the end of this year guaranteeing that domestic workers receive the same rights as other workers.
It highlighted the need for written contracts, a minimum wage, the right to overtime, a day of rest each week, an eight-hour workday, rest periods during the day, national holidays, vacation, paid sick leave, compensation, and social security.
It also recommended that the government enforce a minimum employment age of 15 years, and set up a hotline for domestic workers who want to report instances of exploitation.
(Thank you Mr Reuters, please don't sue poor old Kesasar!