E. Asia migrant domestic workers most abused victims in modern slavery

Updated 27 February 2016
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E. Asia migrant domestic workers most abused victims in modern slavery

LONDON: Forced labor among migrant domestic workers is widespread, with many women exploited even before they have left their home country and later abused by their employers abroad, a survey of modern slavery in the sector has found.
More than 70 percent of 4,100 women surveyed, citizens of the Philippines and Indonesia, said recruiters in their home country had confined them, confiscated their documents, or abused them verbally, physically or sexually.
Many received false information about their future work, wages and living and working conditions, and were told they had built up debts of between $1,600 and $1,800 each in the process of getting a job.
More than 60 percent of them said their employers then restricted their movements and communications, or abused them.
“We never expected the problem to be as widespread as it is,” said Jacob Townsend, CEO of Farsight, an international social enterprise which carried out the survey and released it on Thursday.
“Some (recruitment agents) ... hold women against their will, take their passports, put them in debt and mislead them about the circumstances they will be working in,” he added.
The women surveyed were prospective, current or returned domestic workers, interviewed in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
There are between two million and five million migrant domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines at any given time, with many returning and re-migrating on a continuous basis, the researchers said.
They said their findings disproved the stereotype of women choosing to work overseas to save money and return home with a cushion of wealth, an idea held by many migrants and foreigners.
“This is not temporary migration to save for one’s family — it is recurring participation in an overseas labor market to maintain a subsistence income,” the report said.
In parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, wives and daughters are now expected to migrate for work, and feel they have no alternative, it said.
“Not all people become migrant workers because of an economic problem. Many of my friends, including me, are forced to leave because of social pressures,” one 24-year-old woman from Indonesia’s West Java region told the researchers.
“A family whose daughter does not work abroad is considered a weird family,” she said.
Nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally, 11.7 million of them in the Asia Pacific region, according to the International Labor Organization.


Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

Rohingya Muslim women, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect sanitary products distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP)
Updated 13 min 23 sec ago
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Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

  • One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty
  • Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015

LONDON: Millions of widows worldwide suffer crushing poverty and persecution, their numbers swelled by a proliferation of conflicts from Syria to Myanmar.
International Widows’ Day on June 23 aims to raise awareness of the often hidden injustices they face.
Many are robbed of their inheritance, while others are enslaved by in-laws, accused of witchcraft or forced into abusive sexual rituals. Here are some facts:
- Experts estimated there were 258.5 million widows globally in 2015, but say the number is likely to have risen.
- Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015.
- The biggest jump has been in the Middle East and North Africa, where the estimated number of widows rose 24 percent between 2010 and 2015, partly due to the Syrian war and other conflicts.
- One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty.
- One in 10 women of marital age is widowed. The proportion is about one in five in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
- A third of widows worldwide live in India or China. India, with an estimated 46 million widows in 2015, has overtaken China (44.6 million) to become the country with the largest number of widows.
- Widow “cleansing” rituals in some sub-Saharan countries may require a widow to drink the water used to wash her dead husband’s body or to have sex with an in-law, village “cleanser” or stranger.
- Campaigners for widows’ rights say such rituals, which are intended to rid a widow of her husband’s spirit, spread disease and are a violation of dignity.
- Widows are regularly accused of killing their husbands either deliberately or through neglect — including by transmitting HIV/AIDS — in India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Property seizures and evictions by the late husband’s family are widespread in many places including Angola, Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
- A significant number of girls are widowed in childhood — a reflection of the prevalence of child marriage in developing countries and the custom of marrying off young girls to much older men.