HOME Responds to ‘Maid Arrested After Fall from Second-Storey Flat’
This letter was submitted to the Straits Times’ forum page on 19 April 2016.
HOME has seen an increase in cases of women attempting to escape their agents or employers by attempting dangerous escapes out of high rise apartments. In the past six months, we assisted four of such women and all faced the following issues: verbal and psychological abuse; no or limited access to a key to leave the house; loneliness and depression, and long working hours with no days off.
Therefore, we are concerned about the recent arrest of a 34 year-old foreign domestic worker in the article, ‘Maid arrested after fall from second-storey flat’, (12 April 2016). It is important to know the circumstances behind the jump, and arresting someone who is injured and possibly escaping abuse is an inappropriate response.
In HOME’s survey of almost 700 domestic workers in 2015, we found that almost a quarter of them suffered from a mental health problem. Only 38% of them reported being treated with dignity by their employers, 70% felt homesick at some point and 51% said they were verbally abused at work.
More must be done to understand the vulnerabilities faced by domestic workers. Some may also be victims of human trafficking and forced labour: they are deceived into working conditions which are significantly different to what was promised by recruiters, and are compelled to labour under exploitative conditions to pay off hefty recruitment debts.
Instead of criminalising them for committing a ‘rash act’, we need to create greater employment protections and social support for these women. Including them in the Employment Act and giving them the right to switch employers freely will increase their bargaining power and create the conditions for them to stand up to abuse and exploitation.
Ms Tam Peck hoon
Legal & Advocacy
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics