Following the reported abuse and maltreatment of Indonesian domestic workers Erwiana Sulistyaningsih in the hands of her Hong Kong employer, global alliance of overseas Filipino workers Migrante International expressed solidarity for calls of domestic workers across Hong Kong and other parts of the world for justice, more humane working conditions, an end to forced migration and modern-day slavery.
Twenty-three year-old Erwiana is still undergoing serious medical treatment in a hospital in Sragen, East Java, Indonesia. She has severe cellulitis on her feet and hands, her body has signs of trauma from having been hit with a blunt object, part of her brain is swollen, her eyesight cannot function well and her teeth are broken due to severe beatings by her Hong Kong national employer Law Wan Tung.
Currently, her case is being handled jointly by Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities. Hong Kong police arrested Erwiana’s employer last January 20 as she was on her way to board a flight to Thailand.
The Justice for Erwiana and All Migrant Domestic Workers Committee, of which Migrante is part, led 5,000 domestic workers and supporters in a protest march and rally in Hong Kong yesterday. Other Filipino and migrant domestic workers are also gearing for solidarity actions and activities for Erwiana.
For Migrante International, Erwiana’s case as the latest most gruesome case depicting the suffering and plight of domestic workers, especially women domestic workers, is testament to how forced migration and labor export have become the worst cause and manifestation of all forms of abuse, oppression and exploitation of women all over the world.
According to Sol Pillas, vice-chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK), Migrante’s principal partner alliance in Hong Kong, the “feminization” of labor migration driven by the rise in number of domestic workers and caregivers going abroad has perpetuated very specific vulnerabilites that women migrant workers face because they are women. “They suffer sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the sorts of work where they tend to predominated. This is especially the case for domestic workers.”
“They are most vulnerable to abuse and often mistreated by employers. Many are beaten and raped, and many are murdered – as in the case of trafficked Filipina domestic worker Terril Atienza who died under mysterious circumstances in Mongolia. They are lowly-paid and do not enjoy social protection, isolated and discriminated against and without legal recourse because their work is not considered as work and not covered by any existing legal frameworks. Worse, their marginalization is implicitly condoned by States as principal agents peddling domestic workers like ordinary commodities without guarantee of protection or avenues for redress of grievance,” she said.
Pillas said that they salute Erwiana and all abused migrant workers who are willing to rise up, take action and demand justice against abuse and modern-day slavery. “We enjoin all domestic workers like Erwiana to come forward. You have the support of Filipino migrant workers and their families here and abroad.”
Migrante International, together with Gabriela and Kilusang Mayo Uno, today held solidarity protest action for Erwiana and other abused domestic workers at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in line with the One Billion Rising Campaign. ###