Domestic workers

Frustrated at home, Indonesian domestic workers vow to fight for their protection on the international stage

JAKARTA, June 20 (Jakarta Post/ANN): As the government and lawmakers appear to be dragging their feet on offering better protections to Indonesian domestic workers, activists have decided to fight for their rights on the international stage.

Indonesia has at least five million domestic workers, according to the National Advocacy Network (JALA), and many experience hostile working conditions, including abusive treatment and no day off or benefits. health insurance from their employers.

Iweng Karsiwen, a former migrant domestic worker and activist from the Indonesian Migrant Workers (Kabar Bumi) family, flew to New York, USA in late May to address the International Migration Review Forum (UN IMRF) stakeholders meeting.

She urged governments to pay more attention to their practice of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), a non-legally binding international agreement approved in 2018 that encourages countries to protect migrant workers.

She noted that Indonesia had not sent a representative to attend the IMRF meeting.

Karsiwen added that she had submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council (OCDH) in Geneva, Switzerland, on the situation in Indonesia, hoping it would spur the international community to put pressure on the government. to grant more rights to domestic workers.

“Fighting at home, most of the time, won’t get us anywhere. We tried dialogues, petitions, statements, etc. – nothing works. We have no choice but to humiliate the government at an international forum,” Karsiwen said.

“Hopefully if the pressure comes from international actors and not from us, it will prompt the government to give us more protection.”

Indonesian domestic workers also expressed concern and frustration over the government’s lackluster efforts to provide legal protection during the commemoration of World Domestic Workers’ Day on Thursday via an online forum, which was also attended by activists and organizations. civil society (CSO).

Despite numerous cases of abuse of domestic workers, there is currently no law in Indonesia that protects them, most of whom are women and minors.

Current labor laws exclude domestic work as a legitimate profession, excluding workers from any legal protection.

In some cases, this allows human traffickers to take advantage and abuse those seeking domestic work.

“So many workers are uninformed about what would be considered normal in the profession, and they are largely helpless,” said Fajar of Solidarity Workforce Community (Ganas), who is currently in his 10th year as a domestic worker in Taiwan.

Problems in the system

Judha Nugraha, director of protection of overseas citizens at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said protection for Indonesian workers abroad currently exists through Law No. 18/2017.

He pointed out that there is a mechanism in place that deals with cases of abuse of domestic workers, who make up 70% of Indonesians living abroad.

“Of course, we understand that until we address the root of the problem, these abuse cases will continue to appear. The majority of these cases are caused by the governance system in Indonesia,” Judha told the Jakarta Post.

The lack of local law enforcement to protect domestic workers has also made it more difficult to negotiate memorandums of understanding with foreign countries, he said.

“When we try to negotiate a memorandum of understanding to grant [workers] protection, other countries tend to want to assess what we already have at home.

“And it’s hard for us to demand a lot of things because we’re asking them to provide something to our citizens that we don’t provide ourselves,” Judha said.