For Child Domestic Servants, Work Is Life

Wanted: Domestic worker. Must be willing to cook, clean, work with garbage, and do all other chores as assigned. No contract available, payment based on employer’s mood or current financial situation. No days off. Violence, rape, and sexual harassment may be part of the job.

Would you take that job? No way. But for thousands of child domestic workers in Indonesia, this ad doesn’t just describe their job, it describes their life.

A recent CARE International survey of over 200 child domestic workers in Indonesia found that 90% of them didn’t have a contract with their employer, and thus no way to legally guarantee them a fair wage (or any wage at all) for their work. 65% of them had never had a day off in their whole employment, and 12% had experienced violence. Child domestic workers remain one of the most vulnerable populations to human trafficking and exploitation. And while work and life may look a little grim for the kids who answered CARE’s survey, it’s likely that the most abused and exploited domestic workers didn’t even have the opportunity to take the survey.

In part, child domestic workers have it so much harder than adults because the people who hire children are more likely looking for someone easy to exploit. Think about it — if you wanted to hire a domestic worker, wouldn’t you choose an adult with a stronger body and more life experience to lift and haul and cook than a kid? If you could get them both for the same price, of course you would. But what if the kid was cheaper, free even, because you knew she wouldn’t try and leave if you stopped paying her. Or even if you threatened her with death.

That’s exactly what happened to Kaminah. Her employer told Kaminah that they already had a plot of land sat aside and dug for her grave, and that any failure would be enough for the family to kill her and dump her body. She was repeatedly beaten and forced to let the wounds sit, untreated. Her employer mocked her and called her “ugly” because of those wounds. When Kaminah first took the job, she was offered a salary of 400,000 Rp a month, but never say a penny of it. Her employers were recently sentenced to jail, but Kaminah’s life will never be the same.

Child domestic workers like Kaminah live and work all over the world, including right here in the U.S. Many of them are human trafficking victims. The abuse and exploitation of a domestic worker may be harder to uncover, but it is still a crucial human rights issue in need of attention in Indonesia, the U.S, and all over the world.

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos

For educational purposes only



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