Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih returned home with “cuts, burns and bruises” all over her body on January 10, and has since accused her Hong Kong employer of inflicting the abuse. Police investigations have been launched and amid international outcry, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed “anger and concern” in a phone call made to Erwiana and her father.
A 44-year-old woman was charged last month in connection with the alleged abuse of Erwiana and two other Indonesian domestic helpers. Doctors discharged injured Erwiana last week after a stay of nearly a month in a hospital in the town of Sragen in Central Java.
There have been several high-profile court cases in which domestic workers have alleged torture and abuse at the hands of their employers. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, Indonesian migrant domestic workers are at risk of serious human and labour rights violations in Hong Kong. In 2013, there were some 320,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, of which 50 per cent were from the Philippines, 47 per cent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hong Kong law states that such workers must reside with their employers. Their wages are subject to a statutory minimum of HK$4,010 per month from September 30 last year.
Officials in Hong Kong have pledged to take steps toward increasing protections for foreign domestic helpers, but have rejected calls to abolish rules in Hong Kong requiring maids to live with their employers and one stating that they must live with their employers and must leave the city within two weeks of terminating an employment contract.
My coverage of Erwiana’s case from Hong Kong and Indonesia is available at: www.scmp.com/Erwiana