Indonesia: Briefing to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Women and girl domestic workers

January 1, 2011

Indonesia: Briefing to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Women and girl domestic workers

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Cases of violence and other abuses against domestic workers reported to the police rarely make it to court. Most are instead settled through "mediation" outside the scope of the legal system. Domestic workers and employers come to an agreement, usually financial, to resolve the matter in private and any criminal charges pending against the perpetrator are dropped. Amnesty International was told that these practices are facilitated to some degree by the higher status and financial weight of employers compared to those of domestic workers. While employers are often in a strong position to bargain on a financial amount to settle the case and thereby avoid criminal punishment, domestic workers have little option but to accept what their employer offers. With corruption rife across the judiciary and police system, these practices mean impunity for perpetrators and lack of access to justice for victims, potentially fuelling a cycle of abuse whereby perpetrators go free and commit abuses over again.

If a case goes to court, domestic workers may still face obstacles. There may be some reluctance among police, prosecutor’s offices, judges and lawyers to tackle the case due to a persistent belief that domestic violence remains a private issue which does not require state intervention. Many believe that the victim herself, rather than the perpetrator, is responsible for the violence she endured, having provoked such violence by not carrying out her work properly.(19) According to local NGOs these obstacles to victims’ access to justice are further exacerbated by a lack of respect for domestic workers within the judiciary itself. Domestic workers are victims of their low status within Indonesian society. Poorly educated, unskilled, from poor backgrounds, conducting menial tasks and without career prospects, they are often considered and treated as second-class citizens. Their lower status in Indonesian society is also explained by gender prejudices and stereotypes which exist in relation to their work. Domestic work is seen as less important than other types of work as women have been doing it without formal payment for centuries.(20)

In its concluding observations to the consideration of Indonesia’s second and third periodic report at its 18th session in February 1998, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women emphasised "the need for the gender sensitization of authorities, including the judiciary, law enforcement officers, lawyers, social workers, health professionals and other who are directly involved in combating violence against women".(21)

Amnesty International recommends the following to the Indonesian authorities:
· Publicize the Domestic Violence Law and relevant services, such as the recently established gender desks in police stations, to domestic workers, their employers and recruitment agents, including through the media;
· Conduct training to ensure that legal practitioners, including judges and prosecutors, and police are fully briefed about the content and applicability of the Domestic Violence Law;
· Make police aware that their decisions to pursue an investigation should not be affected by whether or not compensation has been offered or accepted.

2.2 Limited victim protection mechanisms under criminal law