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Friday, November 04, 2011

New protections called for Cambodian maids working in Malaysia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

Many young girls are sent to training academies by families who incur huge debt

Many Cambodians who work in Malaysia as domestic help, such as maids or nannies, face untold human rights abuses such as abuse, torture and sexual assault. Human Rights Watch say that both Cambodia and Malaysia must do much more to halt the mistreatment of those who work abroad.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Twenty-eight women were interviewed by the group and nearly half reported suffering physical or psychological abuse from their employers. Another three women had claimed that they had been raped, one by her employer.

The nation of Cambodia has well-connected recruitment firms that forcibly confine young women in poor conditions in training centers for months before they are sent to work abroad. These firms provide cash advances to these women's families, as well as food and livestock. These recruitment firms also charge huge training fees, which takes these women months to work off.

"They Deceived Us At Every Step," is the name of the report documenting these abuses.

"The report is basically a comprehensive account of what happens when women decide to travel from Cambodia to Malaysia," Human Rights Watch's women's rights researcher Jyotsna Poudyal says. "So it documents the abuses and exploitation at each step of the migration process. Our concerns are basically about women who decide to migrate must be protected, and this report looks into the recruitment steps, and then comes up with concrete recommendations of what could be done to improve the situation."

Malaysia and Cambodia should abide by, and then ratify the International Labor Organization's convention on domestic workers, which protects workers from violence and exploitation, says the group.

Furthermore, Phnom Penh must draft a comprehensive migration law that addresses issues such as debt bondage, child recruitment and other abuses common to the recruitment side of the industry.

What makes this very ugly scenario possible stems from economic necessity. A third of all Cambodians live below the poverty line. There are very few jobs available for the estimated 300,000 young people who enter the labor market each year.

The Cambodian government announced a halt to sending domestic workers to Malaysia last month. Poudyal says the suspension is most likely temporary, and that Phnom Penh has shown little interest in tackling the problem.

"From our point of view it seems that the government is keen to promote migration, but at the same time extremely reluctant to extend basic protections to its workers," added Poudyal. "So I would say that if Cambodia is serious about being a big exporter of labor then they have to resolve these issues in the long term."

It is a measure that must be done. Indonesia barred its citizens from working in Malaysia two years ago after reports of similar abuses. That action forced Malaysia to ensure that Indonesian domestic workers were awarded protections.

Cambodians are currently excluded.

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