'You can't stop them'

To many foreign domestic workers' welfare groups, maids getting into relationships should be accepted, for the very fact that they are human too and have their needs.

Mr John Gee, the immediate past president of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said employers shouldn't stop their maids from having relationships.

Instead, they should sit down and have "the talk" with their maids.

It may be embarrassing for some to even talk to their children about love and sex, but it's important to educate their maids, he added.

Said Mr Gee: "It's unreasonable to expect a girl who has just reached legal age to come here and work and have completely no love life."

The employers should accept it and just set boundaries for their maids to abide by.

Mr Gee felt that the Government's implementation of a day off for maids is a good thing, as this allows them to go out and meet their friends.

The Ministry of Manpower had on Monday announced a weekly rest day for maids.

The new requirement will apply to foreign domestic workers whose work permits are issued or renewed from Jan 1 next year.

Those who choose to work on their rest day will have to be compensated for this work.

Explained Mr Gee: "It would be a great opportunity for (the maids) to express themselves instead of bottling it all up.

"They would be able to get advice from the more experienced maids on this topic (of love and sex)."

Be tolerant

He added that while employers should be tolerant of their maids' relationships, the maids must also respect their employers' privacy and not bring their partners home.

Mr Jolovan Wham, the executive director of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), shared Mr Gee's sentiments.

Said Mr Wham: "You really can't stop a relationship from happening."

He said it would be unreasonable to send a maid back just because it was revealed that she was in a relationship.

But he also added that the physical aspect of intimacy should be guided.

Specifically, maids should be taught to be safe when having sex.

To this end, he said, Home conducts HIV workshops and sexual education classes for foreign domestic workers every three months.

A maid's personal life should not be her employer's business, as long as she abides by the guidelines laid down for her and puts her responsibilities as her priorities.

Explained Mr Wham: "During working hours, she shouldn't be communicating with her boyfriend, and should do so only in her allocated personal time."

It would be a problem if the maid's social life becomes affects her work or breaches legality issues.

Added Mr Wham: "We don't own the maid, we hire the maid as an employee.

"A simple thought is, how would you like to be treated in your workplace?"

Maid agencies that The New Paper spoke to were accepting of their charges having relationships, but stressed the severity of a pregnancy.

Ms Virginia Basawil, 49, a partner in AV Manpower Management Agency, said that maids can sometimes be lonely in a foreign land, so they get into relationships with other foreign workers.

"We always tell them not to get themselves into trouble when they find a boyfriend, because they are at a disadvantage," she said.

In Singapore, maids who get pregnant are deemed to have breached the terms of employment and face immediate repatriation.

Mr Stanley Wang, in his 30s, the boss of United Recruitment Services, explained that an employer's response to a maid's pregnancy may decide the maid's future.

More forgiving employers will usually arrange privately with the agencies to send the maid back, giving her a second chance to return to seek employment.

Explained Mr Wang: "If the employers were to report to the ministry (that they are pregnant), it will leave a black mark on the maid's record."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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