[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 20:10 GMT
Abused maids tell of their ordeals
Debate about the rights of foreign domestic workers in Singapore is continuing, after authorities rejected calls for maids to be given a mandatory day off each week.

Maids wait outside an agency in a Singapore shopping mall
About one in six families in Singapore employs a maid

A ministry official said that changing the law would inconvenience households but a recent report from Human Rights Watch showed maids could face overwork, small food rations and the denial of social contact.

The BBC's World Have Your Say programme spoke to two Filipina women who went to Singapore to become domestic workers, but suffered at the hands of their employers.

Esther and Thona (not their real names) escaped their abusers and found safety in a house for victims called Home. They spoke to us from the refuge.

ESTHER, 30

I worked every day. I didn't have a day off because it was stated in the contract that only after six months did I get my off day, and after that I would get one each month.

I worked in two houses but after five months I ran away because of insufficient food and insufficient sleep.

I worked every day from 6 o'clock in the morning to midnight but sometimes I had to get up in the middle of the night because I was also looking after a three-year-old child.

After dinner I had to wait for all the members of the family to finish their meal and then I would be allowed to eat, but only their leftovers.

They always scolded me for little things. They were very fussy and wanted everything to be perfect. I could not do the work because I didn't have enough food and I didn't have enough strength. Sometimes I received a scolding because I didn't have the strength to work.

I wanted to go out but they said they had to accompany me. I didn't have any freedom. They wouldn't let me talk to my Filipino colleagues. They didn't want me to make friends with them.

It felt like I was in a prison. I couldn't bear it any more and that's why I ran away.

Every time I looked for a new employer the pain was still there. I felt that this history was haunting me.

I am trying to move on. Here at Home I feel I have found a family but I still really miss my mother.

THONA, 26

My employer did not treat me well. If I did a simple mistake they shouted at me, telling me bad words and sometimes they beat me.

The first time was 20 May 2005, I cannot forget it. She slapped me because I forgot to cook the porridge on time.

The second time she beat me was 30 May 2005. She pushed me in my breasts and it is still very painful.

I was upset and I said to my employer 'Why do you beat me?' and my employer said 'Why should I not beat you?'.

My employer sent me back to my agency and then I ran away.

I ran away on 17 June 2005. I went to Home. I found Home and I have stayed here in the shelter for nine months already.

I really miss my family. I don't have money to go back. I would be happy if I could go back to the Philippines, if I could reach my own country.



SEE ALSO
Singapore rejects maids' day off
09 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Singapore accused of maid neglect
06 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Singaporean accused of maid abuse
19 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific