The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo vowed to stop sending Indonesians to work as housemaids abroad, because the poor treatment they received was humiliating for the nation. The President, however, apparently did not realize that the situation at home is no better.
Speaking at a congress of the Hanura Party in Surakarta, Central Java, over the weekend, the President said he felt humiliated during a recent visit to Malaysia when he raised the issue of Indonesian migrant workers, including housemaids, with his host Prime Minister Najib Razak.
'This is about our [nation's] dignity. In my bilateral meeting with Malaysia, I did feel very ashamed,' said Jokowi, as quoted by Antara news agency.
National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) member Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, however, reminded the President that the situation was no better at home, citing the absence of legal protection for domestic workers.
The House of Representatives has not been able to pass a bill on domestic workers' protection although it was presented to the House 11 years ago, she said.
'How come we expect other countries to protect [housemaids] when even in their own country they are unprotected?' the former House member said in a discussion at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) on Sunday.
Housemaids are also prone to mistreatment. Based on data released by the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), there were 332 cases of mistreatment and violence against domestic workers in 2013, slightly increased from 322 cases in 2012.
Domestic worker Santi also spoke in the discussion, which was held to commemorate National Domestic Workers Day. The 35-year-old said the government did little to protect workers like her. There is almost no legal protection, including in relation to the minimum wage and other workers' rights, for those in her profession.
'It is sad that our profession is not categorized as 'worker' and has no legal basis,' Santi noted.
Santi, who works for a Japanese family, said that she received Rp 1.8 million (US$141) per month for working from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and added that she also had to work on national holidays.
'When I asked my boss why I don't get a day off during national holidays, he argued that there were no clear regulations about my profession that prohibit me from working during holidays,' she said.
Another housemaid, Ana, said that she earned Rp 1.2 million per month for working from Monday to Saturday for a family in Kemang, South Jakarta, and added that the money was not enough to cover her and her 5-year-old daughter's daily needs.
'My boss also reduces my salary if I do not show up for work, even when I told him that my daughter was very sick,' she said.
She said that the salary included her meals and transportation allowance, adding that she was not allowed to eat anything from her boss' house.
Budi Irianti, a housewife, said she was not aware that there was a National Domestic Workers Day in Indonesia.
'My maids do not work on Sunday, but if the domestic workers' day fell on a work day, I don't think I could give them the day off because the commemoration is still not common yet,' Budi said.