Drawn by the promise of employment, thousands of men and women from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and other countries in Asia travel to Malaysia every year. The country has approximately 4 million documented and undocumented foreign workers, representing almost one-third of its work force.
This is the story of a 19-year-old Indonesian woman who came to Malaysia to become a domestic worker at age 15. Physically abused, sexually assaulted, and humiliated, she was not paid for over three years of work.
“There was a couple who were looking for people to work in Malaysia. They talked to me and asked me whether I wanted to work overseas. I said yes. They said I would work as a domestic worker, cleaning house, mopping, sweeping.
After a few days, I was taken to an agency in Jakarta. That agency did some illegal work—if the girl is underage, the agency will increase her age. In my passport, I can’t remember exactly what it said, but I remember it said that I was born in 1983.
The agent sent me to my employer’s house. I did domestic work for them. I woke up at 5am, made food, and began housework by 6am. I would do the sweeping, mopping, cleaning the furniture, washing the clothes and cooking. I worked until around 9pm. After four and a half months, my employers sent me back to the agency, saying I did not know how to do the work.
I stayed with the agent for six months. The agent beat me. She had me take off all my clothes and squat on the floor in front of the other workers and her husband. She pushed my head into a pail of water so that I almost drowned. I couldn’t breathe. Then she had me lick the water on the floor. She told me I had to clean the floor with my tongue.
Another time, the agent forced me to eat five cockroaches while they were still alive. She also forced me to drink urine from other workers, including one who was having her period at that time.
She burned my nipple with a cigarette. It was very painful. She put her cigarette to my nipple when I was sleeping. Then she stepped on my stomach and kicked me on my body.
Another time she had another female worker took a bottle of deodorant and insert it into my vagina forcefully.
Sometimes she made the other workers do it for her. Others at the agency were treated the same way.
After six months, the agent sent me to another employer. I was transferred every two or three months. After that, the agent sent me to do part-time work, so in one day I would clean three or four houses.
I never received one single cent in pay.