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Dead maid found in Malaysian home
Latest in series of cases to raise concern over treatment of domestic workers.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2007 09:19 GMT

Workers rights groups say Malaysia does not do enough to prosecute abusive employers [EPA]

The bruised body of an Indonesian maid has been found at the home of her Malaysian employers, once again raising concerns over the treatment of domestic workers in the country.
 
Police said the maid, named only as 24-year-old Kunarsih, was found dead when her employer retuned home from work late on Wednesday.
The couple who employed the maid are in custody for questioning pending further investigation, officials said.
 
Indonesian embassy officials say police have told them that Kunarsih's body bore sign of abuse.

The discovery is the latest in a series of cases to raise concerns over the alleged abuse of domestic helpers in Malaysia.

 

Earlier this week, another Indonesian maid, Parsiti, 22, was rescued on a condominium window ledge as she climbed down from a 22nd-floor apartment, apparently hoping to escape an abusive employer.

 

That incident followed a similar case in June, dramatic photos of which appeared around the world.

 

But despite the publicity, workers rights groups say officials often downplay the problem of mistreatment of Malaysia's 300,000 domestic helpers, the bulk of whom come from Indonesia.

 

Lax enforcement

 

Commenting on the incident, Eka Suripto, an official at the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said the lack of enforcement and prosecution of abusive employers was compounding the problem.

 

"Certainly this matter will be further investigated," he told Al Jazeera. "But the lack of law enforcement is leading to an increasing number of maid abuse cases."

 

Punishing employers "will serve as a deterrent for others not to abuse their maids" which will in turn reduce the numbers of such cases. But the question is, what can the Malaysian government do in cases where the employers go unpunished?"

 

About 100 maids were currently seeking shelter at the embassy after complaining about abusive employers, he said.

 

"Once we finish with the relevant processes, we have to negotiate with the employers for a settlement, such as unpaid wages, and then send the women back to Indonesia," added Eka.

 

Protection

 

He said Malaysia and Indonesia signed an agreement to ensure better protection for Indonesian maids last June, but officials were waiting to see those measures being implemented.

 

"If nothing happens soon, the matter will be raised at a top-level bilateral consultation later this year," he added.

 

In a high-profile case four years ago, Nirmala Bonat, an Indonesian maid, told a Malaysian court she was repeatedly branded on the breasts with a hot iron for as punishment failing to iron her employer's clothes properly.

 

According to Indonesian officials some 1,200 maids flee their employers every month, often due to abuse or dissatisfaction with long working hours, a lack of freedom of movement, or unpaid wages.

 

Malaysia relies heavily on Indonesian migrant workers to work as domestic helpers as well as in other jobs such as construction and plantation work which many Malaysians refuse to do.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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