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Nearly 20 years in the making: Indonesia could finally pass law to protect domestic workers from abuse

Channel News Asia - February 15, 2023

Saifulbahri Ismail, Jakarta – Indonesian domestic worker Rizki Nur Azkia had been kicked, punched and beaten by her former employers, a couple living in Jakarta.

"If the dishes weren't clean enough, the wife would tell me to be naked and would make a video of me. I was stripped to the skin and told to sleep on the balcony," the 18-year-old recalled.

"She would then pour syrup on my body and lock the balcony door. The next morning, she would open the door."

Domestic workers in Indonesia like her could soon get better care and legal recognition, as the government speeds up deliberations on a proposed law aimed at offering better protection for them.

The Domestic Workers' Protection Bill, which has been in limbo in parliament for 19 years, is now a priority for the Indonesian government.

Protecting domestic workers made a priority

Activists said they have received more than 3,200 complaints of violence against domestic workers since 2015.

The Bill to protect domestic workers is now a priority for the government.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said: "To promptly enact the Bill on the protection of domestic workers, I have instructed the Legal and Human Rights Minister and Manpower Minister to immediately coordinate and consult with lawmakers and all stakeholders."

Under the Bill, employers who are guilty of violence against their domestic workers can be jailed up to eight years.

The Bill also sets the minimum age of domestic workers at 18.

In addition, workers and employers must enter into a written contract setting out the various terms and conditions. These include salary and benefits, working hours, and rest days.

Domestic workers are hopeful that after waiting nearly 20 years, their rights can be ironed out sooner rather than later.

"I think this is good because for rest days, some of us get two days in a month or once a week. That's based on the agreement between the domestic worker and employer," said domestic worker Sania.

She added that with the proposed law, employers cannot do as they wish to act against domestic workers.

Not recognised as formal workers

There are about 4 million domestic workers in Indonesia, and they do not have legal protection because they are not recognised as formal workers.

The Bill also safeguards the interests of employers. For example, it identifies work categories to better manage employers' expectations.

Ms Putri Fitria, who has hired help, said: "I want to know what's her background, what are her skills. Previously, my domestic worker said she can't cook and that's okay.

"More importantly, the person should be energetic and play with my child, because I'm working and can't take care of him all the time."

Every Wednesday, a small group of domestic workers and activists would show up in front of the House of Representatives, urging lawmakers to quickly pass the Bill and not delay it any longer.

Worker advocates said the Bill is similar to agreements which the country insists with foreign governments, when their citizens employ Indonesian migrant workers.

Indonesia supplies thousands of its citizens every year to many countries, mostly working as domestic workers.

"This means it becomes a bargaining position when we make demands on the destination countries to protect our migrant workers," said activist Lita Anggraini, who is coordinator for the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy.

"In our own country, we should also have regulations so that it's consistent." – CNA/ca(ja)

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/indonesia-proposed-law-protect-domestic-workers-abuse-327998