The courts sent a man to the gallows yesterday for his horrific treatment of a maid that led to her paralysis and subsequent death.
Muntik Bani, an Indonesian, ran away from her previous employer only to die at the hands of her new one.
Her death stirred a diplomatic row between Malaysia and Indonesia. Justifiably so – Muntik is just one of many maids who have reported beatings and severe mistreatment by their employers.
Like Muntik, Siti Hajar Sadli was also abused by her employer. Among other things, she was attacked with hammers, scissors and scalded with hot water. But Siti Hajar was lucky. She managed to escape and find refuge at the Indonesian embassy. Indonesia subsequently declared a moratorium on sending maids to Malaysia.
The ban on sending maids is still in force with no sign of it lifting anytime soon. To be frank, Malaysians shouldn’t employ maids until they learn to treat them like people and not human-shaped tools.
Most Malaysians maid employers speak of their maids with disdain. They have no qualms complaining about their maids failings.
“My maid is so useless! She burned my husband’s shirt today.
“My maid is so stupid. I have to keep teaching her how to use appliances over and over again, because she forgets.”
Even the proposal to give maids a day off was met with opposition.
“They might run away or mix with bad crowds.
“I already take my maid with me when I go out and treat her well. Why should I let her go off by herself?”
Listening to Malaysians speak about their maids, you get the sense they don’t regard their helpers as equals. No, maids are ‘lower’ than them.
“They’re here to work, not to socialise,” is the reply when I say that even maids need to go out, make friends and have their own personal time.
What are maids? Beasts of burden? Indentured slaves? Or just people too poor and too deprived of opportunities, forcing them to work in foreign countries to work for thankless employers who ask too much and pay too little.
For less than RM600 a month, a live-in maid has to do all the chores and function as cook, cleaner and babysitter all-in-one. The most repugnant sight, for me, is to see maids carrying children so their employers can have their hands free to shop.
I feel like asking the mother if her child means so little that she would rather a stranger hold her offspring than do it herself.
Perhaps she doesn’t know that truth of parenting: all too soon the little ones grow too old to carry, too resistant to physical affection.
Why do Malaysians feel this entitlement? Why do they justify paying foreigners peanuts to do work they feel to privileged to do and then treat them badly for it?
Just Google the term ‘maid abuse’ and the first few links are about Malaysian cases.
Maid abuse in our country knows no race divide. Maid abusers come from all races and backgrounds. Rich, poor, Chinese, Malay or Indian – all these have been maid abusers.
It makes you wonder if there is some sort of poison in the Malaysian mentality that makes us numb towards the suffering of foreign workers, maids or no. We speak of disdain of the ‘coloureds’, blame crime rates on foreigners when there are plenty of Malaysian thieves, rapists and murderers.
The man on the kapcai grabbing your handbag is more likely local, not foreign. You know that because a foreigner would find it hard to get a license, let alone make enough money for a motorbike.
Until Malaysians change their mindsets of treating maids as nothing more than slaves – chained to their houses to do whatever is asked of them from their employers – they shouldn’t be allowed to employ them. Not until proper protection has been accorded so employers will treat maids like employees and not chattel.