Jail for Singapore woman who abused helper for doing chores slowly

PHOTO: Pixabay

A woman in Singapore who abused her Myanmar domestic helper by forcing her to pour hot water on herself, pulling her hair out and hitting her was jailed for three years on Monday.

Singapore is home to almost 250,000 domestic helpers, mostly from other parts of Southeast Asia, who head to the tiny but wealthy city state to earn far higher salaries.

Beauty parlour manager Linda Seah, 39, was convicted last month for the abuse inflicted on Phyu Phyu Mar in 2016.

The mistreatment detailed in six charges included two instances when the domestic helper was forced to pour hot water onto her left shoulder, leaving her with burn marks and blisters.

Seah also forced her to drink "water adulterated with floor cleaner", according to the charges.

Singapore's foreign domestic workers vulnerable to forced labour, report finds

On one occasion she shook the domestic helper by the hair until some of it came out, and on another, hit her repeatedly in the head with a mobile phone.

The Singapore court heard that Seah was unhappy as she felt Phyu Phyu Mar was slow in completing her chores.

But handing down the jail sentence, District Judge Olivia Low said that Seah's "unhappiness with the victim's work should not justify any form of violence against" her.

She said the victim suffered "psychological harm" and had been left with a scar on her shoulder.

As well as the jail term, Seah was fined S$9,000.

The judge said aggravating factors for the sentence included that the domestic helper was denied food, leading her to become malnourished, and her salary was not paid.

The woman's husband Lim Toon Leng, 44, was jailed for six weeks on one charge of punching Phyu Phyu Mar on the forehead.

The abuses came to light after Phyu Phyu Mar accompanied Seah to the beauty salon she managed, where one of the employees alerted the police.

Abuse of domestic workers is not as common in tightly-regulated Singapore as other parts of Asia, but some cases have made headlines.

In 2017, a Singapore couple were jailed for starving their Philippine domestic helper until she weighed just 29kg, in a case prosecutors described as "shocking in its extremity and severity".

The helper was only allowed two meals a day, usually of white bread and instant noodles, was restricted access to her mobile phone, and was only allowed to shower twice a week.