Friday, 22 September 2023

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“I think you need sex”, says employer

Deborah Choo/

Whenever Jasabelle (not her real name) forgot to do her chores, her employer would threaten to rape her.

“Sir would say: ‘I think you need sex then you can start remembering the things you need to do.’” Jasabelle told TOC.

The 24-year old Filipino foreign domestic worker begun working for her employers – a young couple in their thirties  – in September 2009. The sexual harassment begun only one year into her employment, but before that, Jasabelle was already facing problems with her employer’s wife.

According to Jasabelle, ‘Ma’am’ was always looking out for ways to deduct her salary; if Jasabelle woke up late for say ten minutes, she would be instantly slapped with a penalty fee of $50. If she ate her lunch without asking for permission, she would be fined according to the price of the food. The amount she began to owe her employer began to snowball. Within six months, her total fines went up to SGD $500.

“When she scolds me, Ma’am would always say that I will get retribution and it will go to my son and my family,” she recalled. (verbal abuses are neither covered by the Penal Code nor Employment of Foreign Workers Act.)

In addition, her employer usually delayed her salary payment for at least two months. When she asked her employer about this, her Mom tersely replied her: “You’re not allowed to ask me because this is my money.”

In December 2010, Jasabelle requested to Ma’am to return to her agency and was refused.  It was around that time the sexual harassment begun. What started as verbal taunts quickly turned into molestation.

According to Jasabelle, ‘Sir’ molested her for the first time in late January 2011. She was cleaning the master bedroom when he came from behind and groped her breast. In shock, Jasabelle almost screamed out loud but her Sir sternly signaled her to keep quiet as ‘Ma’am’ was in the bedroom’s toilet putting on make-up.

From then on, ‘Sir’ started molesting at every opportunity he had. His wife remained oblivious to the happenings at home. Jasabelle kept quiet at first, hoping that the molesting would end. But when the occurrences became more frequent, she finally mustered enough courage to warn ‘Sir’ that she would make this matter known to his wife. But even that was useless.

“He told me that if I dared to tell Mom, he will tell her that I seduced him,” she said.

Jasabelle next turned to her friend in the Philippines who advised her to cal both MOM and the Philippines embassy. According to her, the MOM officer she spoke to cut her off before she could finish giving her account and told her to settle her issue with her employer and the agency herself.

The embassy on the other hand suggested that she approach Humanitarian Organization of Migration Economics (HOME, a local migrant workers’ NGO). So with only $12 in her pocket, she escaped to HOME.

A police report has been made and the case of sexual harassment remains under investigation.

The case of salary dispute has also been resolved after HOME brought the case up to MOM. Jasabelle is now issued a Special Pass and is allowed to look for another employment.

It would take some time before she fully recovers from the ordeal. Jasabelle, who is married with one child has yet to tell her husband about what transpired.

“I am scared this will happen again with the next employer, but I pray it won’t,” she confides.

To find out more about HOME, click here.

If you wish to support HOME by giving donations, please click here.


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