A Singaporean woman has been charged with 80 counts of physically abusing her Indonesian maid, the Straits Times has reported.
Affluent Singaporeans often hire maids from abroad
It is thought to be the highest number of offences against a maid ever filed against one person in the city-state.
Sazarina Madzin is accused of punching, slapping and hitting the maid with objects such as bottles, shoes and a plastic chopping-board.
She is also charged with threatening to kill her.
If found guilty on all counts, Ms Madzin could face more than eight years in jail.
More than 140,000 women - mainly from the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka - are employed as domestic workers in Singapore.
According to the Straits Times, it took a court official about 30 minutes to read all the charges against 28-year-old Ms Madzin.
Do you think that maid abuse is a widespread problem? If so, why do you think this might be? Have you had any personal experiences?
I used to live in the Gulf and you would hear about a maid committing suicide every couple of days. Most maids are terrified to speak up. They are afraid of their employers, their agents, the police and the authorities. I've seen maids sleep in tiny rooms smaller than the average bathroom, or even just on a mattress in the living room (one even under the dining table). One maid living above my family's apartment committed suicide last summer by jumping from the roof: her employers treated her well, but her agent refused to return her passport so she could go and see her family, and verbally and physically humiliated her in front of the police.
A. T., Glasgow, UK
My girlfriend is from the Philippines and a number of years ago she worked in Kuwait as a maid/nanny for six months. She decided to run away after arriving in the UK while the family were on holiday. She had suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the children and her employers. She was even threatened with death. When she complained to her agency in Kuwait, the manager of the firm beat her so badly she could not work for one month and she was denied any medical treatment. Even to this day she suffers psychologically from her experiences.
Having lived in Singapore for the past 17 years it's regrettable to report that maid abuse still remains a widespread problem. An incident that comes to mind involved our next door neighbours who are a professional Singaporean couple in their thirties with two young boys. The family left for a twelve day holiday to Shanghai during last year's Christmas break. Approximately one week later our own maid asked whether she could give some food to the maid next door.
We were happy to oblige but requested more details. We subsequently discovered that the family had departed leaving no fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, meat, fish or eggs. We inspected the fridge which was completely empty. For the next six days the neighbour's maid joined us at meal times. Upon the family's return I made a point of talking to the couple but before I could say very much I was rudely told to mind my own business and advised that "at least she didn't have to eat her own shit". This was no doubt a reference to another recent maid abuse case in which the employer, a school teacher, forced her maid to eat her own faeces.
L R, Singapore
Maid abuse is not a widespread problem. The irresponsible reporting of maid abuse by the local papers and television is a problem. Just one year ago, the media was obsessed with maids bringing boyfriends to their employer's homes. Now the same treatment by the media is given to maid abuse.
Ryan Lim, Singapore
Maid abuse has become a shockingly widespread problem in Singapore. For a small island state we sure have a lot of offenders. I believe this is due to the mounting pressures at the work place, at home and in school. Many locals do not know how to handle such pressures. Some develop anxiety problems or depression. People who abuse maids have pretty much the same problem as those who abuse their kids. Something more must be done to educate the people and it has to start from the family.
Geraldine Tan, Singapore
I am from Malaysia and I have seen affluent people there not respecting Muslim Indonesian maids. In fact a local butcher I know hires maids to sell pork at his store in the town market. These people are mainly forced to live in a small room and work from 6am till 10pm. They are not allowed out for most of the time and are paid very little (around £60 a month).
Jon C, London, UK
When I worked in Jakarta we had an Indonesian maid working for us. Our daughter was born during this period in Jakarta. The maid, whom we used to call Ibu, did not speak a word of English or our language. But she was god sent. She used to cook and take care of my daughter. She was the most reliable, most honest, and affectionate person we had known in the last two decades. More than anything else she was a friend to us and took care of us and our house as her own. Even today, we think about her and wish her well.
Manivannan Rajapathy, Sharjah, UAE