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Activists demand enactment of domestic worker rights law

Indonesia is exposing millions of workers to widespread abuses without one, they say

Activists demand enactment of domestic worker rights law

Anis Hidayah says that the absence of domestic workers protection law will keep putting domestic workers in danger. (ucanews.com photo by Ryan Dagur)


Labor activists and church groups in Indonesia have called on the Indonesian government to immediately pass a bill that will enshrine the rights of more than 2 million domestic workers into law and put an end to widespread abuses.

The bill that lays down, among other things, what kind of work domestic workers do, their working hours and rates of pay has been pending in parliament since 2004.

No clear reason has been provided as to why the bill has not yet been passed into law.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the Indonesian bishops' Advocacy and Human Rights Forum, said it’s the government’s duty to protect the country’s labor force and that the bill pending in parliament is long overdue.

"The law will provide an umbrella of protection for domestic workers. Indeed, the state has an obligation to protect them, and other citizens," he said.

The law should include harsh sanctions against violators and allow the public to monitor its implementation, he said.

"The absence of such a law exposes domestic workers to danger," Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care, told ucanews.com after a June 16 seminar in Jakarta to mark International Domestic Workers’ Day.

Many domestic workers face abuses, she said.

"Work contracts aren’t clear enough, there’s no guidance on the type of work expected, working hours, holidays and wages."

Lita Anggraini, coordinator of the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy, said domestic workers would continue to suffer from abuse, including violence due to the absence of such a law.

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Foreign employers are given the green light to badly treat Indonesian domestic workers in a way that might not take place in their own countries because regulations exist, she said.

She said she once met a foreign employer who paid her Indonesian maid overtime as she would have done in her own country.

"However, once she knew that Indonesia doesn’t have such regulations, she never did it again," Anggraini said.

London-based rights group Amnesty International also criticized Indonesia for not having introduced the law.

"Domestic workers, thousands of whom live and work in abusive conditions, must be afforded the same legal protection as all other workers," the rights group said in a statement issued on June 15.

"Such a law would better protect the rights of domestic workers from economic exploitation, gender-based discrimination, physical, psychological and sexual violence and other human rights abuses," the group said.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are about 2.6 million domestic workers in Indonesia.

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