Posted by: Indonesian Children | June 6, 2009

Indonesia failing to protect child domestic workers: rights group

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Jakarta – Many of Indonesia’s child domestic workers toil up to 18 hours a day and face physical and sexual abuse while the government is doing very little to protect them, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 18 who work as domestic help are not considered formal workers in Indonesia and therefore are not entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, and a weekly day off and vacation, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“Indonesia’s child domestic workers work longer and harder than many adults, but the government excludes them from laws that protect the rest of the workforce,” said Bede Sheppard, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

About 688,000 children under 18 worked as domestic labourers in Indonesia between 2002-2003, the group said.

A new Human Rights Watch report titled “Workers in the Shadows: Abuse and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers in Indonesia” said girls as young as 11 worked in other people’s households, performing tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child care.

The rights group said most girls interviewed for the report worked 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week and almost all were grossly underpaid, and some got no salary at all.

Some girls reported being physically, psychologically, and sexually abused, it said.

“There’s a willful blindness on behalf of some government officials who choose to ignore or deny that child domestic workers are exploited and abused,” said Sheppard.

Human Right Watch called on the Indonesian government to grant fundamental labour rights to domestic workers and to enforce the existing minimum age requirement of 15 for full-time employment for all workers.

It said discriminatory or ill-informed views by government officials drove the widespread government reluctance to establish new policies to protect child domestic workers or enforce existing laws or services.

One official from the Jakarta Manpower Agency was quoted in the report as saying that his agency never considered child domestic workers to be “real workers.”

“For example, government officials throw up their hands and claim that it is impossible to monitor conditions within employers’ private homes, yet they won’t even adequately staff a national telephone hotline that children could use to report abuse and seek assistance,” the statement said.

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