Strengthening Labour Inspection System and Protecting Freedom of Association to Stop Tortures of Migrant Domestic Workers

Joint Press Statement by Labor Law Reform Coalition and Towards 189 Coalition on 3rd December 2020 in Petaling Jaya

Labour Law Reform Coalition and Towards 189 Coalition (Gabungan Ke Arah 189) condemn torture and inhuman treatment of Indonesian domestic worker MH*. We call on the government to stop repetitive pattern of violence against domestic workers by improving labour inspection system and protecting their freedom of association.

When MH was rescued by the police’s anti-trafficking team on 26 November 2020, her body was severely scalded by hot waters, it is believed that the abusive employer continuously beat, cut and starved MH during her term of employment.

This case is reminiscent of previous abuses suffered by Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia, for example, Nirmala Bonat was assaulted by her employer in 2004 and Adelina Lisao was tortured to death in 2018. Many such cases might be unreported due to lack of communication channels, disrespect of one-day off rule and confiscation of passport.

The tortures of migrant domestic workers exposed poor monitoring and enforcement on violation of workers’ rights in Malaysia. It is probably attributed to failure to include domestic workers’ workplace in the labour inspection system, because domestic workers have been demeaned as “servant” not “worker” in our labour law.

To make matter worse, Trade Union Act prohibits migrant workers including domestic workers from setting up trade unions. As a result, domestic workers cannot provide solidarity support to each other and overcome the challenge of violation of worker and human rights.

Therefore, in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 days of activism, LLRC and K189 strongly urges the Malaysian government to:

  1. CREATE effective labor inspection system and carry out periodic unannounced inspection at domestic workers’ workplaces;
  2. SET UP dedicated hotline for migrant workers including domestic workers to lodge complaint on tortures, confiscation of passport and violation of one-day off rule;
  3. ENFORCE the law against brutal employers, protect victims’ right to access to shelter, legal aid and counselling;
  4. REFORM Trade Union Act to allow migrant domestic workers to form trade unions and realize their freedom of association;
  5. RATIFY ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Labour Law Reform Coalition
Towards 189 Coalition

*MH : This is not a real name to protect the identity of the victim of tortures.