This article contains graphic descriptions of abuse, which readers may find distressingg. Readers’ discretion is advised.
A 42-year-old woman will be charged on Wednesday (28 Apr) with allegedly hurting her former Indonesian domestic worker by pressing a heated iron onto her arm repeatedly and punching her eyes with objects, said the police on Tuesday (27 Apr).
Police investigations showed that the woman, who was not named by the police, had allegedly assaulted her 49-year-old domestic worker on multiple occasions between February and October last year.
According to the police, the employer had allegedly abused her helper by pressing a heated iron onto her right forearm repeatedly, punching and hitting her eyes with her fists and objects like clothes hangers.
It was noted that the police received a report of the alleged offences on 30 Oct last year.
“As the domestic worker had returned to Indonesia when the report was received, efforts were taken to facilitate her return to Singapore to assist with investigations,” said the police, as quoted by CNA.
The employer is set to be charged with two counts of voluntarily causing hurt, one count of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means, and one count of voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
Given the offences involving a domestic worker, each of these charges would carry heavier penalties of twice the maximum punishment for the offences.
PAP’s Shamsul Kamar spoke on CDE’s initiatives, lauded MOM’s commitment to tighten mandatory reporting structure for doctors to alert possible cases of abuse
Earlier in March, the People’s Action Party (PAP) politician and Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) executive director Shamsul Kamar wrote in a commentary piece to CNA about the adverse impact of the “bystander effect” on domestic workers’ safety and wellbeing.
He explained how the case of Myanmar domestic worker Piang Ngaih Don, who was starved and abused to death by her employer, was an example of how the ‘bystander effect’ works in reality.
In his piece, Mr Shamsul, who contested in Aljunied GRC in the last general election, also highlighted the CDE’s initiatives to help improve the well-being of migrant domestic workers in Singapore.
“In the course of our work, the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) has met many who have advocated for better treatment of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) such as granting them reasonable access to mobile phones, weekly rest days, and timely and full payment of salary.
“These are basic employment rights to be accorded to all FDWs and we have campaigned regularly for these rights,” he noted.
According to him, out of over 2,000 FDWs the CDE assisted last year, nearly 50 per cent of them faced salary issues or some form of verbal and physical abuse, did not receive sufficient rest and food, were not given reasonable access to mobile phones, or were deprived of their weekly rest days.
Mr Shamsul also lauded the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) commitment to work with the Ministry of Health to tighten the mandatory reporting structure for doctors to alert possible cases of abuse to authorities.
“Medical professionals have a duty of care to report suspicious-looking injuries even when FDWs chose to remain mum,” he added.
Mr Shamsul also revealed that the CDE is working with the International Labour Organisation under its Safe and Fair Migration programme to design and implement a community responder programme, set to be launched next year.
However, he stressed that both society and employers play a part to stop the abuse of migrant domestic workers, adding that Singapore has to overcome such “pluralistic ignorance”.
“Pluralistic ignorance refers to situations where individuals do not believe in a practice yet continue to engage in it because they wrongly assume that the practice is widely accepted.
“In our work, we see employers saying that even though they know that it is incorrect for them to safekeep their FDWs’ salary, work permit, and passport or restrict their weekly off days, they do it because ‘everyone else they know is doing it’,” said Mr Shamsul.