Indonesia's protection of domestic workers 'shameful': Amnesty

JAKARTA - Amnesty International condemned Indonesia's parliament Friday for "dragging its feet" on the protection of domestic workers, despite the recent brutal abuse of an Indonesian maid in Hong Kong.

The rights organisation called on Indonesia's parliament to pass a bill on the protection of domestic workers that was drafted in 2010 before the legislative's term expires in September, saying it was "shameful" the bill had been ignored.

The case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who was allegedly scalded and beaten repeatedly over an eight-month period by her Hong Kong employer, caused ire in Indonesia, a source country for maids in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East.

But Amnesty International said in a statement that abuse was also common in Indonesia, where millions of domestic workers live in "legal limbo" and are not granted the same protections as other workers.

"They often live on pitiful salaries in poor conditions, and are blocked from challenging abuse by their employers," the statement said.

"Millions of them, the vast majority women or girls, are at risk of exploitation and many are abused, but have no legal means of improving their own situation," said the organisation's Indonesia researcher Papang Hidayat, adding the workers remained "second-class citizens".

A series of dramatic cases in the past year have highlighted the vulnerable situation of domestic workers across Indonesia.

The case of Siti Nur Amalah emerged in December, when the domestic worker accused her Jakarta employer of starving, beating and sexually abusing her over a four-month period the previous year.

She said the abuse left her blind, after which her employer returned her to an employment agency and instructed her to not report the abuse.

Sulistyaningsih left hospital earlier this month after being treated for burns and head injuries, tearfully expressing hope that her case would prevent future abuse of "small people like us".

She had heavy support from fellow domestic workers in the country, some of whom took to the streets demanding their rights.

Amnesty International in November also condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction.