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Raped, groped and assaulted: 5 FDWs talk of their pandemic ordeals

29 June 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap

Photos of the abuse victims are displayed at the press conference

With her back turned to the camera, Putri, an Indonesian domestic worker told a news conference earlier today, Jun 29, of how she was repeatedly groped, then raped by her male Chinese employer. When she got pregnant, she said her female employer who knew about the assaults and rape, told her to get an abortion, but she refused.

Another Indonesian, Selly, spoke of how her male employer had repeatedly fondled her over the five months that she had worked in his household. She managed to flee only on June 25 with help from the Mission for Migrant Workers, after being allowed to take a rare day off.


Herlina, also Indonesian, provided details of the repeated physical assaults she suffered at the hands of his male employer. Once, when she sustained a deep, open wound after a heavy aquarium that the employer told her to move fell on her foot, she was taken to a doctor only the next day. In the latest incident on June 24, her employer used a fishing rod to hit her on her hands and temple, before kicking her out to the front yard.

Backing up her story was Uun, who worked with Herlina in the employer's house in Tuen Mun, and fled with her at the same time. While not physically abused, Uun said she worked long hours, especially during the weekends when their employers hosted dinner parties at home. She and Herlina were not allowed to go out during their rest days.

3 of the abuse claimants (3rd, 5th and 6th from left) face the press

Rounding up the group of complainants was Eden, a Filipina worker who spoke, also online and with her back to the camera, about the torture she said she was subjected to by her female employer, a secondary school teacher who lives in Tsuen Wan. When Eden managed to escape on May 30, fellow workers were shocked to see the huge contusions on her thighs and stomach, and numerous scratches on her back and other parts of her body.

What the five workers had in common was that they were new in Hong Kong, and were mostly prohibited from going out for their weekly rest days, with their employers using the pandemic as the excuse. All lived in the New Territories, which made it doubly difficult for them to seek help from their respective consulates and support organizations that are based  mostly on Hong Kong island or Kowloon.


The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, which held the press conference jointly with the Mission for Migrant Workers, said the ordeal that the five women were forced to go through showed the Hong Kong government’s failure to protect the city’s 370,000 FDWs.

AMCB was particularly critical of the government’s repeated assurances that FDWs could be told to spend their rest day in the employer’s house, for as long as the worker agrees to this set-up.


“We demand the Hong Kong government (to) take responsibility for their announcements and policies encouraging employers to keep their MDWs like prisoners inside the house,” said the AMCB in a statement read out by spokesperson Sringatin.

She said that because of this advice, workers like Eden and Ina were unable to seek safety or report the abuse they were experiencing.

Distressed workers and supporters show what need to be done to prevent abuse  

Johannie Tong, Mission’s case officer, said the surge in abuse cases amid the pandemic was alarming. She cited the Mission 2020 report which showed that sexual abuse cases tripled during the year, compared with 2019. Reports of physical abuse also rose by two percent year-on-year.

In addition, the survey reportedly showed that the overall working conditions of migrant workers have worsened during the pandemic, with around 98% being made to work long hours. Seven out of 10 worked for around 11 hours, while the rest worked for more than 16 hours. A few worked as long as 18 to 19 hours a day, Tong said.

Both AMCB and the Mission called on the government to review its policies that they said allow the abuses to happen, particularly the live-in requirement and the 14-day rule for those whose contracts are prematurely terminated.

They also urged the Philippine and Indonesian consulates to provide financial support to their migrant workers in distress, as they are unable to send money home while pursuing their cases.


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