“The Philippines has its own share of such crimes against domestic workers.” – Migrante International
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Migrant groups are calling for justice for Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih who was reportedly abused and maltreated allegedly by her employer, a Hong Kong national.
Migrante International said Erwiana’s case is “the latest most gruesome case depicting the suffering and plight of domestic workers, especially women domestic workers, and is a testament of how forced migration and labor export have become the worst cause and manifestation of all forms of abuse, oppression and exploitation of women all over the world.”
Erwiana, the migrants group added, is currently undergoing medical treatment in a hospital in Sragen, East Java, Indonesia.
“She has severe cellulitis on her feet and hands, her body has signs of trauma from having been hit with a blunt object, part of her brain is swollen, her eyesight cannot function well and her teeth are broken due to severe beatings by her Hong Kong national employer Lo Wan-tung,” Migrante International said in a statement.
Aside from Erwiana, another Indonesian domestic worker Susi filed a complaint against Lo, citing that her employer also beat her from April 2010 to March 2011.
In a related development, Lo was apprehended at the Immigration Department counter around 4 p.m. on Jan. 20. She was supposed to go to Thailand, the South China Morning Post reported.
Erwiana, for her part, was very happy, when she learned about the arrest of her former employer, the report added.
Migrant rights groups based in Hong Kong held protest actions to demand justice for Erwiana.
“It is not only an issue of her being an Indonesian, but her (Erwiana) being a migrant worker and a human being. We from the Philippines are also migrant workers. We know the feeling of being away from home and suffering,” Eman Villanueva of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union was quoted as saying in a GMANetwork.com report.
‘Feminization’ of labor migration
Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, said more women are being driven to work abroad, which, he referred to as the feminization of labor migration. This has triggered a rise in number of gender-related violence committed against women workers who are mostly domestic workers and caregivers abroad.
“They suffer sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the vulnerable jobs available to them. This is especially the case for domestic workers,” Martinez said.
Martinez said women workers are “most vulnerable to abuse and often mistreated by employers.” The Philippines has its own share of such crimes against domestic workers, he added, citing the recent case of Terril Atienza, an overseas Filipino worker who died under mysterious circumstances in Mongolia.
“They are lowly-paid and do not enjoy social protection, are isolated and discriminated against and without legal recourse because their work is not considered as a job and not covered by any existing legal framework. Worse, their marginalization is implicitly condoned by States as principal agents peddling domestic workers like ordinary commodities without guarantee of protection or avenues for redress of grievance,” Martinez said.
Erwiana will return to Hong Kong to testify against her former employers. Her father, Rohmad Saputro, was quoted in a South China Morning Post report saying, “Yes, definitely we will continue to press for a lawsuit. We wanted the government to protect Erwiana.”
Martinez said they “salute Erwiana and all abused migrant workers who are willing to rise up, take action and demand justice against abuse and modern-day slavery.”
“We enjoin all domestic workers like Erwiana to come forward. You have the support of Filipino migrant workers and their families here and abroad,” he added.