Female Domestic Workers Must Be Protected in Indonesia

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By Carole Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist for Amnesty International

This week President Obama paid his first ever visit to Indonesia since he took office in 2008. It took place in a heavy climate as President Yudhoyono is dealing with two simultaneous natural disasters: an earthquake followed by a deadly tsunami and a series of volcano eruptions which have triggered international media attention. Yet, while these catastrophes may provide the media with ‘outstanding’ visuals, a silent human tragedy unfurling the whole archipelago goes unreported.

Every year in Indonesia, an estimated 20,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth. Amnesty International published last week a report on maternal health in Indonesia. This report shows that discriminatory laws, gender stereotyping and criminalization of abortion constitute violations of women’s rights and of the state’s duty to guarantee the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and the threat of criminalization.

But the report also pointed out that some groups such as domestic workers are more vulnerable than others to violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. An estimated 2.6 million people work as domestic workers in Indonesia, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Girls under 18 years old are believed to make up a third of that figure. Yet, the 2003 Manpower Act fails to provide any form of protection to Indonesian domestic workers who have been left out of the piece of legislation.

This act contains a number of provisions specifically protecting women during menstrual period, pregnancy and night work. But the Manpower Act only applies to employees of “entrepreneurs” in “business” or “social and other undertakings with officials in charge’ – definition which private households and domestic workers do not meet.

Because domestic workers’ work takes place in the employer’s home and they are often isolated from their families, they can face abuses and difficulty accessing sexual information and education, family planning, and health care services.  Lenny, a 14-year old domestic worker from Java was abducted, drugged, and smuggled to another province of Indonesia, where she worked 19 hours a day with no compensation whatsoever while being abused both physically and psychologically until she escaped three months later.

Amnesty International has been vocal advocating for female domestic workers rights in Indonesia. In 2007, we published the report Indonesia – Exploitation and Abuse: the Plight of Women Domestic Workers. In 2010, several public statements were issued, urging Parliamentary Commission IX to move forward with a Bill on domestic workers which would meet international laws and standards. Now is the time to prioritize the passing of legislation on domestic workers with explicit provisions pertaining to maternity.  Join us in urging the Indonesian Parliament to care about women and girls domestic workers in Indonesia by passing a domestic workers bill.

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20 thoughts on “Female Domestic Workers Must Be Protected in Indonesia

  1. A poem I wrote on my blog and posted on my Facebook profile in support of AI:

    Peace,
    Gayle

    Conscience

    Don’t speak up

    and see what transpires

    when you don’t add your voice

    to atrocities seen.

    Don’t speak out

    when outraged and incensed,

    then the outrage will be

    that your silence was kept.

    Prisoners of conscience

    don’t have a say,

    their rights have been taken

    and many enslaved.

    There’s many held captive,

    tortured and raped–

    stand up against these injustices

    before it’s too late.

    Our lives are filled

    with everyday scenes

    where societies are crumbling

    but we won’t hear the screams.

    Too many turn a blind eye

    and ears deafened by choice,

    what a shame, what a tragedy–

    what is our unease?

    People worldwide are needlessly dying,

    by the tainted hands of corruption.

    We can stop it; we can help

    through all of us uniting.

    Speak out, join forces

    with all others who care

    and write letters of protest

    opposing all tyranny.

    Open your eyes, don’t look away–

    your compassion is desperately needed.

    So unlock your heart and don’t delay,

    join Amnesty International–before the end of this day.

    http://www.amnesty.org/

  2. A poem I wrote on my blog and posted on my Facebook profile in support of AI:

    Peace,
    Gayle

    Conscience

    Don’t speak up

    and see what transpires

    when you don’t add your voice

    to atrocities seen.

    Don’t speak out

    when outraged and incensed,

    then the outrage will be

    that your silence was kept.

    Prisoners of conscience

    don’t have a say,

    their rights have been taken

    and many enslaved.

    There’s many held captive,

    tortured and raped–

    stand up against these injustices

    before it’s too late.

    Our lives are filled

    with everyday scenes

    where societies are crumbling

    but we won’t hear the screams.

    Too many turn a blind eye

    and ears deafened by choice,

    what a shame, what a tragedy–

    what is our unease?

    People worldwide are needlessly dying,

    by the tainted hands of corruption.

    We can stop it; we can help

    through all of us uniting.

    Speak out, join forces

    with all others who care

    and write letters of protest

    opposing all tyranny.

    Open your eyes, don’t look away–

    your compassion is desperately needed.

    So unlock your heart and don’t delay,

    join Amnesty International–before the end of this day.

    http://www.amnesty.org/

  3. A poem I wrote on my blog and posted on my Facebook profile in support of AI:

    Peace,
    Gayle

    Conscience

    Don’t speak up

    and see what transpires

    when you don’t add your voice

    to atrocities seen.

    Don’t speak out

    when outraged and incensed,

    then the outrage will be

    that your silence was kept.

    Prisoners of conscience

    don’t have a say,

    their rights have been taken

    and many enslaved.

    There’s many held captive,

    tortured and raped–

    stand up against these injustices

    before it’s too late.

    Our lives are filled

    with everyday scenes

    where societies are crumbling

    but we won’t hear the screams.

    Too many turn a blind eye

    and ears deafened by choice,

    what a shame, what a tragedy–

    what is our unease?

    People worldwide are needlessly dying,

    by the tainted hands of corruption.

    We can stop it; we can help

    through all of us uniting.

    Speak out, join forces

    with all others who care

    and write letters of protest

    opposing all tyranny.

    Open your eyes, don’t look away–

    your compassion is desperately needed.

    So unlock your heart and don’t delay,

    join Amnesty International–before the end of this day.

    http://www.amnesty.org/

  4. Deeply … deeply touched by your light on every issue …..

    now this one.

    i see them too, my Indonesian sisters, as i pass by them …

    i see the strength in their beautiful faces ….

    i see how they clothe themselves with their dignity ……

    i feel their isolation more than that of the Filipinas laboring as caretakers abroad….

    Or perhaps it's just i who am isolated from them ………

    They seem more shy ……. or more isolated by "culture"…… they seem not to have the bridge prattling in English gives others, English being such a door of entry AND a catwalk for the "civilized" in this mentally colonized world run by the Sahibs of all colors who love to flaunt the scraps of culture they have …..

    Between them & their indonesian families & me, a glass wall made of distance, sometimes of toil & class……..

    Bridged only fleetingly by gesture ….. &, in its wake, a silent mutual love & regard.

  5. A poem I wrote on my blog and posted on my Facebook profile in support of AI:

    Peace,
    Gayle

    Conscience

    Don’t speak up

    and see what transpires

    when you don’t add your voice

    to atrocities seen.

    Don’t speak out

    when outraged and incensed,

    then the outrage will be

    that your silence was kept.

    Prisoners of conscience

    don’t have a say,

    their rights have been taken

    and many enslaved.

    There’s many held captive,

    tortured and raped–

    stand up against these injustices

    before it’s too late.

    Our lives are filled

    with everyday scenes

    where societies are crumbling

    but we won’t hear the screams.

    Too many turn a blind eye

    and ears deafened by choice,

    what a shame, what a tragedy–

    what is our unease?

    People worldwide are needlessly dying,

    by the tainted hands of corruption.

    We can stop it; we can help

    through all of us uniting.

    Speak out, join forces

    with all others who care

    and write letters of protest

    opposing all tyranny.

    Open your eyes, don’t look away–

    your compassion is desperately needed.

    So unlock your heart and don’t delay,

    join Amnesty International–before the end of this day.

    http://www.amnesty.org/

  6. Deeply … deeply touched by your light on every issue …..

    now this one.

    i see them too, my Indonesian sisters, as i pass by them …

    i see the strength in their beautiful faces ….

    i see how they clothe themselves with their dignity ……

    i feel their isolation more than that of the Filipinas laboring as caretakers abroad….

    Or perhaps it’s just i who am isolated from them ………

    They seem more shy ……. or more isolated by “culture”…… they seem not to have the bridge prattling in English gives others, English being such a door of entry AND a catwalk for the “civilized” in this mentally colonized world run by the Sahibs of all colors who love to flaunt the scraps of culture they have …..

    Between them & their indonesian families & me, a glass wall made of distance, sometimes of toil & class……..

    Bridged only fleetingly by gesture ….. &, in its wake, a silent mutual love & regard.

  7. Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it.

    And your writing is equally heartfelt. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to all those who are suffering at the hands or control of someone else.

    May we shine the light on all these indignities and reclaim peace and equality for all.

  8. Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it.

    And your writing is equally heartfelt. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to all those who are suffering at the hands or control of someone else.

    May we shine the light on all these indignities and reclaim peace and equality for all.

  9. Women, not only in Indonesia but around the world should be protected and given their voice. They should also be given the strength to fight against their oppressors. Now, this is easier said than done. This can't be done in an instant but I know, slowly but surely, it can be done. So, those of us who can do something about it, start and others will surely follow. That's a love poem too. Loved it.

  10. You are so right, Randall. All women, all people everywhere should be protected and not fear retribution for speaking out against their oppressors. Well, we are hearing their cries and will do what we can to speak for them.

    I'm happy to hear from you and thank you for loving my poem.

  11. Women, not only in Indonesia but around the world should be protected and given their voice. They should also be given the strength to fight against their oppressors. Now, this is easier said than done. This can’t be done in an instant but I know, slowly but surely, it can be done. So, those of us who can do something about it, start and others will surely follow. That’s a love poem too. Loved it.

  12. You are so right, Randall. All women, all people everywhere should be protected and not fear retribution for speaking out against their oppressors. Well, we are hearing their cries and will do what we can to speak for them.

    I’m happy to hear from you and thank you for loving my poem.

  13. Yes, Gayle Rose …

    You can see, despite the distance, "the many enslaved", you can feel "the many held captive".

    You can witness, all around you, "societies are crumbling." Yes !

    You call for Unity.Yes, unity is the first necessary task today.

    When you unite to reach your goal, there will be those that will tell you, "Forget it, it ain't gonna happen."

    They will try to confuse those who come to unite with you by using things outside your urgent agenda… or twist your agenda to their own purposes.

    THEN, do you not falter, but keep your dream.

    & continue to sing, like the nightinGAYLE blooming the ROSE with her heartblood, your lovesong for all the Oppressed.

  14. Yes, Gayle Rose …

    You can see, despite the distance, “the many enslaved”, you can feel “the many held captive”.

    You can witness, all around you, “societies are crumbling.” Yes !

    You call for Unity.Yes, unity is the first necessary task today.

    When you unite to reach your goal, there will be those that will tell you, “Forget it, it ain’t gonna happen.”

    They will try to confuse those who come to unite with you by using things outside your urgent agenda… or twist your agenda to their own purposes.

    THEN, do you not falter, but keep your dream.

    & continue to sing, like the nightinGAYLE blooming the ROSE with her heartblood, your lovesong for all the Oppressed.

  15. Well, that's the beauty of Amnesty International. They don't back down, they don't let people confuse them or try to get them off the path of what they are setting out to accomplish.

    Thank you for expressing your support of me and the work that AI does and your sweetness. I really appreciate it.

  16. Well, that’s the beauty of Amnesty International. They don’t back down, they don’t let people confuse them or try to get them off the path of what they are setting out to accomplish.

    Thank you for expressing your support of me and the work that AI does and your sweetness. I really appreciate it.