Malaysia and highlights the plight of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian workers who end up working as virtual slaves, imprisoned and terribly abused by their “owners”.
In Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur at the Indonesian Embassy. The Embassy has become a refuge to scores of women who have fled their abusive employers and who face arrest by the authorities since their visas are no longer valid because they have left their jobs.
Many of the women, who work as maids, have their passports taken away by their employers and work for the equivalent of US $2 a day. One tells her that she’d been forced to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week for ten months.
Throughout that time she’d never been paid and had been beaten regularly with a golf club. Another tells how she’d been branded with an iron by the woman she worked for and then forced to clean the iron because her flesh had stuck to it. All of them had their passports held by their employers so they couldn’t run away.
Navai speaks to a woman who owns a maid agency responsible for recruiting Indonesian women. She tells Navai that the maids are immoral characters who may get pregnant or come back with a disease. Other women who have paid agents to get jobs as maids never make it into domestic service and instead have been sold on to work in the sex trade. Navai travels to the Indonesian island of Batam, where many girls hoping to work as maids end up. Batam caters to tourists from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore and has a booming sex trade, with around 19,000 sex workers on the island, nearly half of whom are under 18. Some are as young as fourteen or fifteen and they live in brothels as virtual prisoners.
Namai travels back to Kuala Lumpur to interview the Minister of Human Resources, Dr Fong. He’s been negotiating with the Indonesian government which has been demanding a minimum wage, a day off and the worker’s right to keep their passport.
Despite the horror stories from women who have managed to return home, the lure of domestic service in Malaysia remains strong to the poverty stricken Indonesians and the trade in human beings seems destined to continue.