Millions of domestic workers in Indonesia are at risk of economic exploitation and routine abuse while living in legal limbo without protection, Amnesty International said as the country marks National Domestic Workers Day on 15 February.
The organization called on parliament to urgently pass a domestic workers law before its term expires in September 2014.
“Domestic workers remain essentially second-class citizens in Indonesia. Millions of them, the vast majority women or girls, are at risk of exploitation and many are abused, but have no legal means of improving their own situation,” said Papang Hidayat, Amnesty International’s Indonesia Researcher.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there were some 2.6 million domestic workers in Indonesia in 2004 – the last year for which statistics are available. The figure is likely to be higher today.
Under Indonesian law, domestic workers do not enjoy the same protection as other workers. They often live on pitiful salaries in poor conditions, and are blocked from challenging abuse by their employers.
A domestic workers law, which would go a long way towards strengthening legal protection, has been on the legislative agenda since 2010. But the measure has faced numerous delays.
“Domestic workers have the same rights as any other workers in Indonesia, so there is no reason why they should be kept in legal limbo,” said Papang Hidayat.
“It’s shameful that the government is still dragging its feet on the domestic workers law. Parliament must pass it immediately before its term runs out.”
A series of dramatic cases over the past year have highlighted the vulnerable situation of domestic workers across Indonesia.
Siti Nur Amalah’s name made headlines in December 2013, after her employer in Jakarta starved, beat and sexually abused her over a four-month period in 2012. The abuse left her blind and traumatized, and her employer then returned her to the employment agency and instructed her to not report what had happened to her.
Amnesty International urges the Indonesian parliament to at the earliest opportunity pass the Domestic Workers Law, and ensure that it is in line with international standards.
In particular there should be a reasonable limitation on working hours, guarantees of adequate pay and living conditions, clearly defined leave periods and legal provisions for the specific needs of women. There must be a clear route to holding employers accountable when they abuse their workers.
Indonesia has yet to ratify the ILO Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. In July 2011, when the convention was being adopted, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made public commitments to support it. Further, the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration has also committed to its ratification sometime this year. Amnesty International urges the authorities to ratify it immediately.
Amnesty International stands in solidarity with the Domestic Workers Advocacy Network (Jala-PRT), a national coalition of unions and organizations in Indonesia, which has been campaigning for years, for the rights of domestic workers. Jala-PRT is organizing a series of activities this week to commemorate National Domestic Workers Day and to call for the passage of the law.