• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:01pm
NewsHong Kong
HUMAN RIGHTS

Survey reveals extent of abuse of foreign maids in Hong Kong

But aid group believes figures are tip of iceberg with many victims too scared to lodge complaints

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 9:43am
 

The first time "Maria" was raped, she didn't tell anybody. "The first thing that came to my mind was that I didn't want to lose my job."

The 25-year old domestic worker from the Philippines was just a month into her job with a family in Kowloon City when the first attack happened. A second attack forced her to flee.

"I left at midnight, without anything. I just had a small bag. I was still in my pyjamas," she recalled.

Maria's ordeal - which ended recently when her case collapsed due to the deterioration of evidence because she was too late going to a doctor - is at the extreme end of what new figures reveal is the widespread abuse facing the city's tens of thousands of domestic workers.

Data gathered by the Mission for Migrant Workers, which surveyed more than 3,000 women last year, found 58 per cent had faced verbal abuse, 18 per cent physical abuse and 6 per cent sexual abuse. Experts believe the figures represent only the tip of the iceberg as many victims are too scared or ill-informed to lodge complaints.

"The number of unreported cases is obviously unknown," said Cynthia Dacanay, a case worker at the mission, adding: "Some consider abuse a normal thing for maids to experience.''

After a night wandering the streets, Maria's friends took her to the mission in the grounds of St John's Cathedral in Central, which has been providing resources and legal aid for domestic workers since 1981. "I was empowered when I came here. I became stronger," she said.

Dacanay said the Philippine consulate advised Maria to return to the Philippines and not pursue legal action, a charge the consulate vehemently denies.

Hong Kong's often-criticised employment laws for domestic helpers compounded Maria's situation. When a contract ends, a foreign worker has only 14 days to find a new employer, which many say is not enough time. If unsuccessful, a worker must return home or face prosecution.

Maria was granted several visa extensions as her case went through the legal system but she was forbidden by law from working and had to rely on charity. For more than a year she has been living at the Bethune House shelter in Jordan in a cramped dormitory with other women.

Sri, 40, from Indonesia, did not know her employer was supposed to provide medical treatment. "I just signed the contract without reading it because I don't know English," she said.

She said that when she became ill with a throat ailment, her employer of six years tried to trick her into going back to Indonesia. Sri now also lives at Bethune.

For many women, violations are a way of life. Reports of no food or food allowance, delayed pay, working on holidays and not being provided reasonable privacy are common. As with Maria, job security is the main reason most choose to remain silent.

Another source of exploitation can be the agencies that place most foreign workers, with many charging exorbitant commissions despite the law.

In the Philippines, many agencies also insist on a steep upfront fee as a condition for placement in Hong Kong, even though this violates Philippine law.

Despite losing her legal battle, Maria recently filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission, which she hopes will launch a further investigation, but she is also looking to move on. "I plan to look for another employer," she said. "I have to work for my kids."

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34

This article is now closed to comments

bolshoi
I am not saying that this Mr X Man (or Natascha Fung) represents the majority of Hongkongers but it probably would not be an exaggeration to say that his/her comment epitomises some Hongkongers' mentality. It is not surprising given the fact that they grew up in a colony where they were never treated as equals by the Brits and so they are inherently incapable of treating others as equals.
sFuRui
And then you start to compare an entire SUBCONTINENT to a land mass of 1104km2. Do you have any comprehension of how retarded this is?
To compare the whole of North America's infrastructure with the city of Hong Kong?
Why don't you try a city that's actually comparable:
****www.businessinsider.com/10-cities-with-the-best-infrastructures-2012-12?op=1
Oh look, Hong Kong is 6th behind western cities!!!
Guess that renders your infrastructure argument pretty useless!
QUOTE: “The statement that tells it all must be rectified: low class mentality perpetuates
when racist bigots mistake that racial backgrounds
determine moral superiority and backwardness"
First, your introductory sentence to that paragraph makes no sense when taken in context. What are you referring to, and how can a statement "tell it all" and if so how do you rectify something that appears to give all the information? Stop trying to be clever with your wording.
Read the second part very carefully. You are describing yourself, by lowering the level of discussion, you have inadvertently made yourself a hypocrite, and a "racist bigot." See point on "western parents."
If you want people to listen to you, or if you want to cure this country of it's racism then be a part of the solution, not the problem, all your doing is perpetuating more hatred.
And... did you really just quote Mao to prove an ancillary point?
Who gave Hong Kong the rice? The British.
pslhk
Re the case of caractacus
-
What problem is it, verbal or mental
if reality exposition is misapprehended
as “typical of the bigoted, self-centred mindset”
and tagging such derogative label indiscriminately
on “China and other Asian culture”?
-
More mental than verbal, I’d suggest
with serious racist complications.
-
Western “parents work harder”?
in the pubs perhaps
After long London liquid lunch
office workers have their briefcases and handbags
ready by16:40 “to meet the trains”
by 17:01 offices are deserted
-
Compare grocery shopping
and the means of transport to and from work
in North America and HK
and recognize the differences in infrastructural facilities.
-
The racist statement which tells it all must be rectified
“a low class mentality” has (nothing at all to do with wealth and RACE).
I’d add: “low class mentality perpetuates
when racist bigots mistake that racial backgrounds
determine moral superiority and backwardness
-
Re: fstogre
-
Nanies are just like other Canadian immigrants
they prefer Canada for all sorts of reasons
Canada is such a large country and good place to work
why are there still nannies in HK and Singapore?
-
Irrelevant and unrealistic observations like yours
reveal ingratitude
Try and it shouldn't be difficult
to list HK's benefits, advantages and charities
for which you find yourselves here
Despite all his vices, Mao rightly asked
“Who give you your rice to eat?”
fstogre@hotmail.com
Most of the nannies that come to Canada do so because of the bad working conditions they had in HK and Singapore ...
pslhk
“Survey reveals extent of abuse of foreign maids”?
This tendentious headline reveals editorial prejudice
Until its reliability is accounted for
the survey only alleges extent of abuse
-
One case of rape is too much
Journalist due diligence is necessary for every rape report
scmp has irresponsibly transgressed
as it ignored the necessary doubt and recklessly affirmed
‘The first time "Maria" was raped’
-
We don’t need an evil competition
matching surveys of employers’ and helpers’ misconducts
to weigh and compare everybody’s gains and pains
and evaluate which side ends up with a better deal.
-
HK unfairly blackened is the sure victim,
along with employers and employees
who suffer twice as they’re walked over and used
as door mat and a synthetic moral platform in smear campaigns
by some single purpose “charities”
in need of victims and tragedies
to serve their ulterior motives
They’re the only sure winner in this senseless blame game
Mr X Man
Hi baishui, I am sorry to learn that you think I am actually an abuser. My original post was just a very stupid joke, none of this really happened, I never hit anyone in my life. I should not have posted such a dumb and stupid comment, it was supposed to be simply for fun but I made you believe I am an abuser and I can only blame myself for that, so I am the dumb and stupid one after all. Even if I did something as horrible as hitting a maid many times I would not brag about it online but since it never happened I have nothing to be ashamed of, except for posting by mistake that misleading comment. If I have a maid one day I will remember to treat her fairly and my stupid post and your comments referring to me as an abuser will be the perfect reminders. Again, I'm sorry if I offended anyone with my stupid joke.
Mr X Man
Hi baishui,
I am sorry to learn that you think I am actually an abuser. My original post was just a very stupid joke, none of this really happened, I never hit anyone in my life. I should not have posted such a dumb and stupid comment, it was supposed to be simply for fun but I made you believe I am an abuser and I can only blame myself for that, so I am the dumb and stupid one after all. Even if I did something as horrible as hitting a maid many times I would not brag about it online but since it never happened I have nothing to be ashamed of, except for posting by mistake that misleading comment. If I have a maid one day I will remember to treat her fairly and my stupid post and your comments referring to me as an abuser will be the perfect reminders. Again, I'm sorry if I offended anyone with my stupid joke.
donniemcm
But issue is that Canada is flooded with HK people ...
doreendorothy@hotmail.com
These days in this modern society, almost everyone has a slight bad habit n is deemed indolent thus, consequences to the reliant of having a domestic helper or even a part-time maid.
For instance, even when it comes to getting a glass of water, u may find urself calling for ' Maria' to fetch it for u! Faint ah!
pslhk
With due respect
I would deem proportionality and contextual relevance
necessary to avoid being
"intellectually weak and childish"
-
Let’s come down from high moral ground
and work on simple legal basics
that simplify crime as mind and act
As you dwelled on superficial acts, such as
mismatching Hitler and Mao in an absolutist argument
you missed the real lessons
that could help us make this a better world
-
“In between those extremes,
there will be abuses like improper …”
Apart from abuses, there’re …
or are there?
Yes we shouldn’t compare with the worse
What about some positive examples
here or elsewhere to follow
or positive goals to work for?
In the absence of positive examples
or the impracticability of realistic goals
should we abolish the scheme?


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