Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Jailed For Abuse Of Maid

Singapore couple jailed for starving Philippine maid
Lim Choon Hong (left) & his wife Chong Sui Foon (right) were jailed for 3 weeks & three months respectively

A Singaporean couple have been jailed for starving their domestic worker from the Philippines, in a case that has shocked the city-state.

The woman lost 20kg (44 lbs) - about 40% of her body weight - while working for them, and was given only bread and instant noodles to eat. Her employers received jail sentences of three weeks and three months.

Many Singaporeans hire live-in helpers from neighbouring countries, and abuse cases are not uncommon.

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Couple jailed, fined for starving maid, who lost 20kg

For starving their Filipino domestic helper, which caused her weight to plummet by almost 20kg over a 15-month period, a Singaporean couple was sentenced to jail and a fine by a district court on Monday (March 27).

Freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, 48 — who was convicted last March under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act for failing to provide adequate food to his domestic helper — was jailed three weeks and fined a maximum S$10,000. His wife Chong Sui Foon, 48, who was found guilty of abetting him, was jailed three months.

The prosecutors, who sought a maximum jail term of 12 months for each of them, will appeal against the sentence.

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Maid to Order

Between 1999 and 2005, at least 147 migrant domestic workers died from workplace
accidents or suicide, most by jumping or falling from residential buildings. There is no
single reason why domestic workers resort to suicide, but research by Human Rights
Watch suggests that many women are made despondent by poor working conditions,
anxiety about debts owed to employment agencies, social isolation, and prolonged
confinement indoors, sometimes for weeks at a time.

As authorities have acknowledged, many of the deaths are also due to workplace
accidents. Several of the workers fell to their deaths after their employers forced them to
balance precariously, despite being many stories up, to clean windows from the outside
or to hang clothes to dry on bamboo poles suspended from window sills.

While the deaths of migrant workers described above have received increasing attention
in the media and from policymakers, the context in which they occur too often is
overlooked. This report, which draws on extensive research and more than one hundred
interviews, surveys the abusive conditions facing many domestic workers in Singapore
today.

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Couple jailed for starving maid
Chong Sui Foon & her husband Lim Choon Hong failed to comply with work pass conditions & provide adequate food to Madam Gawidan (right) for 15 months, causing her weight to fall from 49kg to 29.4kg. FOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW, ST FILE

A couple who starved their Filipino maid by providing her with only 2 meals a day were on Monday (Mar 27) handed jail sentences.

Freelance trader Lim Choon Hong, 47, got 3 weeks' jail and was also fined $10,000, while his wife Chong Sui Foon was jailed 3 months.

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HUSBAND AND WIFE JAILED OVER YEARS OF MAID ABUSE
Husband Tay Wee Kiat faced 12 charges involving the couple's 2 maids, while Chia Yun Ling was convicted of hitting one of them. ST FOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A 14-day trial revealed the numerous ways that former regional information technology manager Tay Wee Kiat, 39, & his wife Chia Yun Ling, 41, had assaulted their Indonesian maid for almost 2 years.

Tay was on March 11 sentenced to two years and 4 months in jail after he was convicted of all 12 charges.

9 of the charges were for causing hurt to Ms Fitriyah, 34, with the other 3  for making his maid from Myanmar, Ms Moe Moe Than, slap Ms Fitriyah on the face; offering to pay Ms Fitriyah & send her home in exchange for not reporting his abuse; & instructing Ms Fitriyah to lie to the police that he did not abuse Ms Than.

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WOMAN PRESSED HEATED SPOON ON MAID'S FACE, ARMS
Over a 2-week period, Zinnerah Abdul Majeed also hit domestic helper May Thu Phyo  with a bamboo pole, a belt buckle & even a bicycle lock, leaving her with multiple injuries. FOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

All she did was break a cup while washing utensils in the kitchen. But that was enough reason for the domestic helper's employer, Zinnerah Abdul Majeed, to press a heated metal spoon on her arms around the last week of Aug 2015.

The helper, Ms May Thu Phyo, 23, had been working for the family for only about a month when the abuse started.

That was not the only punishment Ms May had to endure over a 2-week period, a district court heard. Zinnerah had hit her with a bamboo pole, a belt buckle & even a bicycle lock, leaving her with multiple injuries.

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MOTHER-DAUGHTER PAIR JAILED FOR ABUSING MAID, LEAVING HER WITH PERMANENT DISABILITY
Jayasheela Jayaraman (left) & her mother, Anpalaki Muniandy Marimuthu were sentenced 12 months & 16 months' jail respectively for hurting the former's maid. ST FOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Housewife Anpalaki Muniandy Marimuthu, 65, & her daughter, warehouse supervisor Jayasheela Jayaraman, 43, were on Sep 23, 2016, jailed 16 months and 12 months respectively for hurting the latter's maid.

Ms Sriyatun, 27, was left with a permanent disability in her left ear from the abuse.

Among the instances of abuse she was subjected to included being slapped for not carrying Jayasheela's shoes into the family's Bendemeer flat, having her swollen ear pinched before it healed & having her breast squeezed & twisted for being slow in her work.

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MAID 'HIT WITH HAMMER' FOR NOT CLEANING TOILET PROPERLY
Ms Khanifah (above) had been working for Zariah Mohd Ali and Mohamad Dahlan for about 6 months when the alleged abuses took place. She told the court she was hit on the head with a hammer at least 5 times.ST FOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Indonesian domestic worker Khanifah, 35, allegedly suffered various abuses at the hands of her female employer, who is accused of using an array of weapons to injure her.

These included  a hammer, bamboo pole & pounder that knocked out or broke her teeth, leaving her with head wounds that are still visible, Ms Khanifah told a district court on Apr 18, 2016.

The employer, Zariah Mohd Ali, 54, is being tried on 12 of 28 maid abuse charges. Zariah's husband, Mohamad Dahlan, 56, is also accused of hitting Ms Khanifah with the cover of a frying pan.

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JAIL TERMS UPPED FOR COUPLE WHO ABUSED MAID
Rosman Anwar (left) & his wife Khairani Abdul Rahman had their jail terms increased for the prolonged abuse of their Indonesian maid. ST FOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

A couple who routinely slapped their Indonesian maid & even threatened to send her to work in the sex trade in Batam had their jail terms increased after the prosecution won its appeal on Sep 25, 2015.

Khairani Abdul Rahman, a 42-yr-old customer service officer, had her four-week jail term doubled to eight. Her 47-yr-old husband, senior logistics officer Rosman Anwar, had his jail term tripled from 2 weeks to 6.

In allowing the prosecution's appeal, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon said the original sentences were manifestly inadequate for the prolonged nature of the abuse and the psychological and emotional toll on the maid.

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WOMAN JAILED FOR JOINING MOTHER IN ATTACK ON MAID; LOCKING HER IN APARTMENT
Chua committed both offences while under a mandatory treatment order for paranoid schizophrenia. ST FOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Chua Siew Peng, 44, was on May 5, 2016, sentenced to 2 months' jail for assaulting her Filipino domestic helper Jonna Memeje Muegue & keeping her locked in her sister's Bukit Timah condo on Oct 30, 2012.

Chua's 75-yr-old mother Lum Wai Lui had assaulted Ms Muegue for eating salmon not meant for her. Chua then entered the toilet & joined in by pulling the maid's hair & slapping her repeatedly.

Ms Muegue escaped escaped the following day by climbing out of the 6-floor window, scaling the ledge and jumping onto the rooftop of the floor below - breaking her feet in the process.

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TUTOR JAILED FOR 3-MONTH ABUSE OF MAID
Tutor Low Gek Hong, 37, repeatedly scratched the Myanmar maid on the face, arms & ears for being inefficient, and used a pair of scissors to poke the victim's left shoulder in February 2012. FOTO: ST FILE

Tutor Low Gek Hong, 37, repeatedly abused her mother's 17-yr-old maid over 3 months from Dec 2011 to Feb 2012, three months into the maid's employment at her mother's Tampines flat.

She repeatedly scratched the Myanmar maid on the face, arms & ears for being inefficient, and used a pair of scissors to poke the victim's left shoulder in February 2012 because the maid could not find a pillowcase that Low wanted changed.

Low also punished the maid by kicking her, biting her, and hitting her with a metal hanger, including once pouring a mug of hot water onto the victim's back for falling asleep in the toilet.

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3 MORE MONTHS' JAIL FOR 'RELENTLESS TORMENTOR' OF MAID
Chan Huey Fern's case was said to be one of the most distressing maid-abuse cases. FOTO: ST FILE

Chan Huey Fern, 33, was on Sep 10, 2014, given 3 additional months' jail on top of her 21-month jail sentence for hitting the back of her Indonesian maid with a foldable chair.

She had initially been convicted in 2013 of abusing Ms Juwarti, then 22, at her Buangkok flat between Jun and Sep 2010.

Chan, who punched Ms Juwarti in the eye & chest, kicked her in the groin until the latter bled and stamped on her body on separate occasions, had her case labelled as "probably one of the most distressing domestic maid-abuse cases in Singapore" by trial judge Low Wee Ping.

related: Maids Tags

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More Stringent Screenings for Indonesian Maids

The recent spate of killings committed by Indonesian maids here in Singapore is alarming. In just slightly over half a year since last year December, there were already 3 such cases, involving Indonesian maids, with the most recent case occurring at Telok Kurau on June 7 this year.

All three victims were either frail elderlies or young toddler, who are close kins of the maids' employers. And all three victims were killed in the sanctity of their own homes in cold blood! This is most disturbing!

In all three cases, the killers' motives for killing, for the most part, could not really be understood, suggesting that all three killers may be suffering from poor mental health. They are virtually walking time-bombs, who are highly unstable individuals.

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Maid Abuse in Singapore - Research Paper

The idea of maid abuse parallels the idea of slavery. In Singapore, there was no term known as maid abuse till the recent decade. Each year, an average of 90 maids report the abuse cases and are documented into the system, however, many goes unheard. The basic ideology of maid abuse happens when a worker under the employment of an employer is ill treated to an extent that would cause side effects to a person physically and mentally. A recent case of maid abuse consisted of a maid being kicked in the belly, slapped, and thrown multiple items at her for not preparing curry puffs as instructed properly. This maid, suffered injuries to her arms and toes, but managed to flee the apartment and reported the abuse to the police. The abuser, Mat Nooh, a father of two, and teacher, was found guilty, and this particular case was settled.(Singapore, para. 2) It is important to know that even a person holding a profession as a teacher, who provides an education to others, and is a highly respected job that others trust and seek information from, is able to carry out such abusive behavior towards a fellow human being. It leads us to question the fact of how much a person can appear to be what he is not, question the true identity of others.

However, not all abused are able to take the physical and psychological abuse. There was another maid who is referred to as Imelda, had acquired bruises all over her body. She alleged that her employer’s brother had hit her repeatedly whenever he would get drunk. In January 1988, he had handed her his knife and told her to kill herself. By doing this action, the employer’s brother had not only physically abused the maid, but also had imprinted the underlying idea that Imelda was useless and would be better off to the world to be dead. Imelda has initially fled to Philippine Community Center, which has since been closed down, to take refuge. However the psychological impact of the matter was too much for her to take, and she had plummeted from the hospital window, to her death.

This is significant to the fact that the abuse of a maid does not stop when the maid leaves the abusive environment, but the effects of it continue to linger in her subconscious mind and it would impair her judgment and thought process in the future due to the abusive acts inflicted upon the maid. Leaving a permanent psychological scar on the maid, forever. There are laws in Singapore that protect helpers, for the most part, from being hurt physically, being wrongfully confined and outraged of modesty, but, it is important to note that foreign domestic workers are not protected under the Employment Act, 1968, that all employees in Singapore are protected by. If you enter a foreign country to work in it as a domestic helper and you realize that the government of that country does not protect you the way it protects the other 5.5 million people living in the same country, it results in not just fear in the back of your mind but it trips a wire that subconsciously tells you, you are not of the same value of others.

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How to reduce incidents of maid abuse?

The issue of maid abuse is once again in the spotlight with the recent case of Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan. Ms Thelma’s weight plummeted from 49kg to 29kg in just 15 moths. For allegedly starving Ms Thelma, her employers, husband and wife Lim Choon Hong and Chong Sui Foon, both 47, are now on trial. This comes shortly after a number of other people have been convicted of abusing their maids. Does this indicate that maid abuse is becoming (or already is) prevalent in Singapore?

Let’s look at the statistics. According to the State Courts, 26 maid abuse cases were filed in 2014. According to MOM, there are about 225,000 maids in Singapore in 2014. So it would seem maid abuse cases that were serious enough to be prosecuted in court represent a tiny proportion (~0.012%) of the total number of maids in Singapore. How does this compare to other countries? Let’s look at Hong Kong. In 2013, there were 37 cases of maid abuse out of 320,000 maids in Hong Kong. In other words, in Hong Kong, the proportion of maid abuse cases that were serious enough to be prosecuted in court represent about 0.012% of the total number of maids. So Singapore is comparable to Hong Kong. And maid abuse in Singapore isn’t actually that prevalent.

There are people of the view that many cases of maid abuse just don’t get prosecuted in court either because the maids don’t go to the police or there just wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. While that may be true, without any other pieces of data, information and evidence, how can we justifiably and objectively conclude that maid abuse in Singapore is prevalent?

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Maid Abuse : Singapore's Shame

A few days ago, Singaporeans were greeted by this dramatic news about a maid who escaped from her abusive employer by climbing from the window of a 5th storey HDB flat. The maid had lost 13kgs over the 4 months period she worked with the family - the had reduced her meals to 2 a day, beat her with an stick until she was close to fainting and [Link]scrubbed her mouth with metal wool. ...shocking.
Jul 28, 2002 SINGAPORE - Muawantul Chasanah weighed 50 kilograms when she first arrived in Singapore two years ago, a slightly built 17-year-old recruited to the big city state to work as a housemaid in a job that would help support her village family back home in Indonesia.By the time she died last December, she was just 36 kilograms and her emaciated body bore the scars of 200 separate injuries.Repeatedly bashed by her employer with his fists, a cane and a hammer, burnt with cigarettes and scalded with boiling water, the young woman's skin had been turned into a patchwork of scars, bruises and open wounds."There were so many times I beat her, I lost count of them," Ng Hua Chye, a 47-year-old tour guide, later told police.Muawanatul had also been starved, often given only packets of instant noodles for her lunch and dinner, and it was hunger that provoked the assault that finally ended her life.Accused of stealing leftover porridge from Ng's infant daughter, the maid was kicked so severely that her stomach uptured.She died several days later of peritonitis, lying in agony in a vomit-stained T-shirt before police arrived too late to save her. - LittleSpeck
If you do a search of the phrase "maid abuse" in Google (I did it via an anonymous proxy so that Google does not bias the search towards Singapore) you will find that the 6 of the top 8 results are links to articles about maid abuse in Singapore. Why do a small but significant number of Singaporeans treat their maids this way?

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Social workers say maid abusers are growing more and more deviant

One employer ordered her pet dog to bite the maid. Another used a marker pen to draw lines on her maid's face. And a 3rd allegedly poured scalding hot water into her maid's mouth.

These were horrific acts that Singapore employers used to punish foreign domestic helpers who, they felt, were not up to par in carrying out their household duties. Social workers are surprised that punishment methods are also becoming more deviant. Previous acts of abuse were mostly acts of violence such as punching and slapping, but some recent victims have complained of being forced to perform humiliating acts, such as being made to sleep with dogs.

And it seems the situation of maid abuse is getting worse.

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Singapore’s Maids: No Respite?

Since January 1, 2013, those joining Singapore’s army of more than 200,000 foreign domestic workers, employed in about one in five households, saw a new clause in their contracts, giving them the right to one day off a week. Seven months on, however, progress seems uneven and spotty. According to Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a Singaporean non-government organization specializing in migrant worker issues that has interviewed domestic workers at popular recreational hangouts and Sunday courses, there has been no significant increase in the numbers of foreign domestic workers taking days off.

Another report, titled Made to Work, released by three non-government organizations in 2011, stated that only about a third of foreign domestic workers have at least one day off a week. Additionally, in a normal month, about half have at least a day (usually a Sunday or a public holiday) off. These statistics remain a concern, combined with the live-in aspect of domestic work and the often long working hours of domestic workers, usually between 14 to 16 hours a day.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Maid to Order report on Singapore’s foreign domestic workers found that from 1999 to 2005, around 147 foreign domestic workers have died while working. This number included both fatal workplace accidents and suicides. HRW cites the unsafe and stressful work environment, the large debts incurred through the use of employment agents, coupled with abuse from their employers as the main causes of domestic worker suicides and accidents. Most were due to falling from heights, as a popular method of suicide is self-defenestration. Falling out of windows while cleaning was also a common cause of workplace fatalities. Other abuses in the workplace documented in the report ranged from “forced confinement, unpaid wages, and exorbitant debt payments.” Added to this is a litany of other verbal and physical abuse, which can be from either the labor agents or the domestic employer. Singapore’s low crime rate in general sits incongruously when compared to the rates of abuse inflicted upon its foreign domestic worker population. The Day Off law seeks to target this statistic.

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Domestic Workers Abuse in Singapore – Master, Please Stop the Beating

The issue of domestic worker abuse remains a prevalent occurrence in Singapore today, as is visible in Singaporean media. However, many cases handled by embassies or organizations are not often publicized in the media, so the number of abuse cases published in the news is not a clear indication of the actual number of occurrences in Singapore. Although a hotline is available for domestic workers to state their complaints to their respective embassies, many cases go unreported. This is because many domestic workers, especially undocumented ones, fear the consequences of reporting to the government. Rather than coming into Singapore through an accredited agency, a large number of domestic workers arrive in Singapore with tourist visas or through illegal recruiters. Under these circumstances, reporting an incidence of abuse may cost them their job. In addition, many serious abuse cases which are actually reported are dismissed due to the lack of evidence and witnesses which prove the occurrence of abuse. In most abuse cases, the only witnesses present are the plaintiff and the defendant or the defendant’s family who may not testify against their family member. Embassies may document the number of cases of physical abuse, but do not count cases handled by the police. Because of these reasons, exact statistics are difficult to obtain.

Abuses include but are not excluded to food deprivation, long working hours with inadequate rest, unpaid wages, forced prolonged solitary confinement in an employer’s home, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. A number of domestic workers are abused by the agents themselves, whose abuses include the confiscation of personal belongings such as passports, illegal or dangerous job assignments, the refusal to remove domestic workers from abusive employers, and the charging of exorbitant recruitment fees. According to one domestic worker interviewed by the Human Rights Watch:
“The agent in Singapore was cruel.  I had to take off all my clothes and was totally nude.  They were checking to see if I had hidden money.  I was wearing a head scarf.  They took it and threw it away.  They hit me and kicked me with boots.  They asked if I brought anything from Indonesia.  They took 50,000 rupiah I had.  There were three other girls with me.  This was happening in front of them.  Only those of us from Indonesia experienced this [treatment].  I had bruises on my head and arms.  The employer found out when I went to her home.  She asked me to go to the police.  I said it didn’t matter because God will punish them.  They were Indonesian agents in Singapore from my hometown.”
Sri Mulyani (not her real name), Indonesian domestic worker, age thirty, Singapore, February 19, 2005. In order to pay back their recruitment fees, some domestic workers are also obligated to stay with their employers for at least six months. During this time, they are indebted and may not earn a salary. In this situation, they are at the mercy of their employer and their agents and find it close to impossible to escape a situation of abuse.

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Should Singaporeans be concerned about the abuse of domestic helpers?

Having domestic help is a relief for many, but for some, maids do not just provide relief from housework. Some employers treat their maids as platforms for stress relief, taking out their frustration on their helpers. While it is understandable that frustration may arise sometimes with a new helper – after all, people have different ways of doing things – abuse is never the answer.

What's going on? A Singaporean couple recently pleaded guilty to the abuse of their domestic helper who was 20kg lighter by the time she managed to climb out from their third-story flat in Punggol. The 34-year-old Indonesian maid was subjected to punches, slaps, kicks and scratches for six months, by her employers. In August last year, Chan Huey Fern, 32, was convicted of voluntarily causing hurt to her 35 year-old domestic helper. Chan kicked her Indonesian helper repeatedly on her body and private parts several times until she bled, after finding her son's blanket on the floor.

Maid abuse is not unique to Singapore. In Hong Kong this year, 44-year-old Law Wan-Tung was guilty of beating her 22-year-old domestic helper every day for eight months. Her domestic helper was eventually sent back to her home in Indonesia as she could no longer work due to her severe injuries. Law Wan-Tung’s two previous domestic helpers have also accused her of abuse during their time of employment.

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Maid Abuse in Singapore is On the Rise and It’s Basically Slavery

The number of domestic helper abuse cases in Singapore has been growing at an alarming rate and the governments of both employer and employees should start taking notice. Only 14 maid abuse cases were filed in the State Courts in 2012 — that number has nearly doubled in 2014 with 26 cases, according to The Straits Times. Between 2015 and this year’s first nine months, there have been at least 19 reported cases.

Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST), a 24-hour helpline for maids launched in June 2013, has also been getting an increased volume of calls. In the group’s first few months of operations, there were less than 50 calls per month.

According to FAST executive director William Chew, more and more maids are calling out for a wide range of issues. Lately they have been receiving at least 180 calls per month.

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Maid abuse cases still a worry here

Maid abuse cases on the rise, with 9 cases reported this year. Workers' rights group says employers must manage their expectations. He was unhappy that his Filipino domestic helper had opened the fridge & microwave at night.

So he grabbed his maid's T-shirt, dragged her into a bedroom and, together with his wife, took turns to hit the 31-yr-old maid on Jan 20 last year.

He slapped her face, and punched her stomach & chest, while his wife slapped the maid & grabbed her neck with both hands.

related: Maids Tags

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Why Is Maid Abuse So Prevalent In Singapore?

One of the embarrassing things Singapore is known for in Southeast Asia is maid abuse. The number of such cases in Singapore has been increasing rapidly. According to the State Courts, there were a total of 26 maid abuse cases filed last year. This is nearly double the 14 filed in 2012. You can read some of the horrible stories here.

The most recent case of abuse would be that of Ms Thelma Oyasan Gawidan from the Philippines. Her Singaporean employers – Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon – deprived her of food. The only food they provided for her was instant noodles and plain bread twice a day. As a result, her weight dropped dramatically from 49kg to 29kg! Many were enraged that the couple would at most be charged with a fine of $10,000 and one year of jail.

Many Singaporeans were enraged that the couple would at most be charged with a fine of $10,000 and one year of jail.

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Daily abuse takes toll on foreign maids in Singapore

What Ami* is seeking is not particularly complicated. She would like a boss who doesn’t scream at her and a workday that won’t stretch to 18 hours long. She would like it if she weren’t forced to clean a second house at no extra pay. She would like to quietly get on with her job, make her SGD$470 (about US$353) a month, and continue supporting her family back home in the Philippines.

Instead, she is quietly killing time and growing anxious in a woman’s shelter while begging her agency to allow her to transfer to a new employer or agency. “If the employer is nice to the maid, the maid is also nice to the employer — no need to run away, no need to transfer,” she said in an interview, her voice breaking. “I’m very sad. Why have employers like this? They treat you like animals, not like humans.” Foreign domestic labor is big business in Singapore, where 222,500 workers hold permits allowing them to be employed by the nation’s 5.7 million residents.

The situation is lucrative, exploitive and tenuous.

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What are the main complaints made by foreign domestic workers?

Complaints vary to some extent, according to nationality. A 2005 survey of 115 Indonesian domestic workers who had worked in Singapore found that more than two-thirds complained of limited access to information and communication with other people, not being allowed to go outside, not having enough time to rest and having a heavy workload, but the most common complaint, in 80 per cent of cases, was having no time off. (A. Savitri Wisnuwardani, Alb. Bambang Buntoro, Mulyadi, Sri Palupi: Problems Faced by Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore: Data and Facts. Working Forum on Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers (FOKER), Working Team on Record and Information, Institute for Ecosoc Rights)

This corresponds roughly with what TWC2 and other groups have found in conversation with Indonesian domestic workers. Most of their counterparts from the Philippines, by contrast, have a regular day off, so the issue tends to have a lower priority for them.

When domestic workers are beaten or hit by employers (‘maid abuse’), it is usually well reported in the media. This can give the impression that violence at the hands of employers is widespread and that it is the No. 1 problem faced by foreign domestic workers. This is not the case. The great majority of employers do not use violence against their workers, and many have a harmonious relationship with them, but complaints about long hours, not having time off and being overworked are common.

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Maid Abuse in Singapore – Clarifying Commonly Held Misconceptions

At the point when this article was written, less than two months into 2016, two cases of maid abuse¹ had already been reported in the local news. In one case, a 75-year-old retiree suffering from schizophrenia and depression was found by the court to have poured bleach and slapped a Foreign Domestic Worker (“FDW”).

During the 10 months working for the accused, the FDW lost 10 kg and eventually suffered serious injuries from an attempt to escape her abusive employer by climbing out of the window of the condominium apartment she was working in². This article aims to identify and clarify some commonly held misconceptions amongst Singaporeans on the subject of maid abuse in relation to the law. Firstly, this article will challenge the misconception that “maid abuse” contemplates only physical abuse. Secondly, it will explore the defence of mental illness and explore some cases where it was successfully or unsuccessfully raised by the accused. Finally, it will tackle the tremendously flawed idea that FDWs are unable to do anything to help themselves when faced with abuse, and show how FDWs can in fact be instrumental in the successful conviction of abusive employers.

Misconception:

  • Emotional abuse is not maid abuse
  • Mentally ill employers will always be able to escape harsh sentences even if found guilty of maid abuse
  • FDWs are not able to do anything about abuse prior to intervention by the police or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

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Prevalence of Domestic Worker Abuse in Singapore – it’s more than just our culture

Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) abuse in Singapore is back in the media spotlight. There were 26 cases being filed in the courts in 2014, up from 14 filed in 2012, and yet more high profile cases have surfaced this year. Explanations for the prevalence of MDW abuse in the mainstream and social media have focused on the issue of a “culture of unequal relationships” in Singapore.

Because Singapore society judges a person by how much they earn – as the argument goes, bosses perceive themselves to be superior to workers and take their latent frustrations out on them. As such cultural traits are deeply-rooted in our society, MDW abuse is, thus, “difficult to stamp out”.

However, whether or not such cultural traits are deeply ingrained in society, they do not explain the prevalence of these cases of abuse. The emphasis on changing employer attitudes towards MDWs so that they can be treated more kindly, can sometimes ignore the precise nature of paid domestic work, systems of recruitment and government regulations that make MDWs vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

related: Cases of abused of and abusing by foreign domestic worker in Singapore

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Some of Singapore's worst maid abusers

The number of maid abuse cases in Singapore that have come before the courts has been on the rise in recent years.

Statistics from the State Courts show that in 2014, there were 26 maid abuses cases, almost double that in 2012.

In the past 5 years, the courts saw a total of 90 cases, reported The Straits Times. This works out to an average of 18 cases a year, or about one case every 3 weeks.

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From maid-abuse monster to mentor

The startling details of mother & daughter Maimunah Ahmad & Daliana Abdullah abusing their Indonesian maid, Ms Puteri Andanari, 26, made headlines last week.

Ms Puteri was slapped multiple times, had her hair pulled & her head slammed against the wall. These acts of abuse allegedly happened within a few months of her arriving in S'pore to work as a maid for Daliana, 40, and her mother Maimunah, 80.

What drives such employers to sadistic acts of violence against their helpers? And can they ever live down the shame?

related:
What awaits abusive employers
Most choose to remain silent
Maid kills Singaporean widow after being called stupid
Maid, 16, gets 10 years for killing 'demanding' boss
Underage maid pleads guilty to killing employer
Maid could not take the scoldings

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Courts see more cases of maids being abused
Myanmar maid Lay Mon (right) with 2 other foreign domestic workers who are at Home's shelter. She wanted to return home after 3 months but said her employers owed her two months' salary and would not let her end her two-year contract. They also threatened to contact the police. ST FOTO: LIM SIN THAI

More maid abuse cases have been brought to light here in recent years, & a culture of unequal relationships could be one reason it is so difficult to stamp out.

According to the State Courts, there were 26 maid abuse cases filed last year. This is nearly double the 14 filed in 2012, & brings the total number of such cases filed in the past 5 years to 90.

In past 3 months, at least five people have been found guilty and sentenced to between two weeks and 15 months in jail. The abuse included slapping, biting and scalding. In April, District Judge Mathew Joseph said while sentencing tutor Low Gek Hong to nine months in jail for repeatedly abusing a 17-yr-old Myanmar helper, that such offences had been on an "upward trend" in Singapore.

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10 Nightmare Stories That Prove Maid Abuse Is Alive In Singapore

Foreign domestic workers come to Singapore in search of a better job to support their families back home. For years, Singaporeans have relied on domestic help to support their own families here. But behind closed doors, some maids suffer abuse at the hands of their employers.

Read the cases of abuse that struck horror in the heartlands of Singapore:

  • Solichah, Abused between 2011-2013
  • Jonna Memeje Muegue, Abused in 2012
  • Juwarti, Abused in 2010
  • Rinonos Analyn Almoite, Abused in 2011
  • Lilis Sriyatun, Abused in 2009
  • Maricel Campos Malbas, Abused in 2014
  • Neni Lestari, Abused in 2013
  • Mustainah Munari, Abused in 2012
  • Unnamed Burmese helper , Abused in 2011
  • Tardem, Abused in 2012

read more

10 Shocking Facts About The Maid Abuse Case That You Should Know
Here’s what the Mainstream Media didn’t highlight about the maid starvation incident

Most people’s hearts have gone out to the maid after hearing her tragic abuse story. For the uninitiated, a couple starved their maid, deprived her of food and did not allow her to speak to anyone. The trial has been going on since 14 Dec.

Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, the victim of this maid abuse case survived on bread and instant noodles throughout her torture period employment, causing her weight to plummet from 49kg to 29kg. The domestic worker claimed that her employers kept surveillance of her round the clock and she only managed to escape when they left her alone to clean the area outside their Orchard Road condominium.

With the help of a fellow Filipina, Gawidan managed to get to a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

read more

Full Coverage:
Courts see more cases of maids being abused, Singapore News
Some of Singapore's worst maid abusers, Latest Singapore News
Cases of abused of and abusing by foreign domestic worker in
Prevalence of Domestic Worker Abuse in Singapore – it's more than
Safeguards to ensure well-being of foreign domestic helpers
Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore - Lee Kuan Yew School of
Maid Abuse in Singapore – Clarifying Commonly Held Misconceptions
Daily abuse takes toll on foreign maids in Singapore - ANISYA
Fact sheet: Foreign domestic workers in Singapore (complaints and
Why Is Maid Abuse So Prevalent In Singapore? - Jeraldine Phneah
Maid Abuse in Singapore is On the Rise and It's Basically Slavery
Maid abuse - Youth.SG
Domestic Worker Abuse / FrontPage
Diary of A Singaporean Mind: Maid Abuse : Singapore's Shame
'I never restricted her from anything': Male employer in maid abuse
Maid Abuse in Singapore - WikiFoundry
More Stringent Screenings for Indonesian Maids | REACH
How to reduce incidents of maid abuse? | crazyrandomchatter
Maid to Order - Human Rights Watch
Maid Abuse in Singapore - YouTube
SINGAPORE MAID ABUSE by UGLY SINGAPOREAN FAMILY
ExpatSingapore - Approx. how many maids in Singapore?
Family Violence – Resource Guides - National Library
Singapore's Maids: No Respite? | The Diplomat
10 Nightmare Stories That Prove Maid Abuse Is Alive In Singapore
Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) - G8 Migration - LibGuides at United
Social workers say maid abusers are growing more and more deviant
More data could help prevent crimes involving maids - News AsiaOne
A quarter of maids surveyed found to have poor mental health
Singapore's foreign maids exploited by agents, employer, Life
Jail and fine for couple who starved maid, causing her to lose 20kg
Couple jailed for starving maid: Previous maid abuse cases in
Couple jailed for starving maid and causing her to lose 20kg, AsiaOne
Singapore couple jailed for starving Philippine maid - BBC News
Couple jailed, fined for starving maid, who lost 20kg | TODAYonline
Couple jailed for starving domestic helper for 15 months - Channel
Couple who starved maid for 15 months from 2013 jailed and fined
Singaporean couple jailed for starving Philippine maid | South China
DPP to appeal couple's sentence for starving maid over 15 months
Short jail time for Singaporean couple who starved Pinoy maid
Singaporean couple jailed for starving Filipina maid
Singaporean couple jailed for starving Philippine maid - Times
Singapore Couple Jailed For Starving Philippine Maid
Singapore Law Watch - Couple jailed, fined for starving maid, who lost
Singapore couple jailed for starving Philippine maid | Bangkok Post
Sinkies Couple Jailed for Starving Maid [GLGT] - www.hardwarezone
Singaporean couple jail and fine for starving maid | KnowYourLeak
Singapore jails couple for starving Filipino domestic helper
Singaporean couple jail and fine for starving maid - YouTube
Jail for Singaporean couple who starved maid causing her lose 20 kgs
Couple jailed for starving maid:... - Google News
Housewife gets 7 years in jail for starving maid to death - NewsDog
maid lost 20kg, couple who starved maid jailed 3 ... - All Singapore Stuff
Singaporean couple jailed for starving Filipina maid - Dubai Eye
Singaporean couple jailed for starving Philippine maid | Philippine

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