NST Region: Call to strengthen laws protecting maids in Myanmar

A LEGAL watchdog claims the shortcomings of local laws are contributing to rampant abuse against domestic helpers and violation of their rights.

Daw Hla Hla Yi of the Legal Clinic Myanmar said on top of that, there are also victims who do not know how to report violations or ways to seek assistance.

“Even ordinary people have difficulty accessing the laws; it is more difficult for domestic helpers.

“Since maids are migrant workers, even if their human rights have been violated, they don’t have any idea that a crime has been committed against them,” she recently said according to Myanmar Times.

The Legal Clinic Myanmar has formed a task force for domestic workers with the help of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in cooperation with the Myanmar Trade Union, Future Light Centre, Gender Equality Network, Karen Baptist Convention, Women Network, and Myanmar Fifth Estate.

The group will seek to introduce more firm laws to ensure the protection of domestic workers in line with conventions and suggestions by the ILO.

Internationally 27 countries have signed convention No. 189 stipulated by the ILO in 2011 on providing protection to domestic helpers but only the Philippines has signed it among southeast Asian countries.

If a law specifically for domestic helpers is enacted, it would protect the rights of local maids and those in foreign countries, labour groups said.

Last year, the government set a minimum wage of K4800 (RM13) for eight hours of work per day, one day off per week, and overtime pay for working on their off days.

But the law only applies to businesses with 10 or more workers, and excludes maids, said U Nay Win Naing, a lawyer with the Fifth Pillar Group.

“The maids are different because they don’t have fixed work hours,” he said.

“It is like their salaries will never increase no matter how much they try.”

U Nay Win Naing said a law for domestic workers is needed, rather than just making amendments to the basic labour laws.

“It’s difficult and complicated to amend the law to apply to domestic workers,” he said. “So we need a separate law for domestic workers.”

Most domestic workers are young women. In rural Myanmar, young women are recruited through brokers or relatives. Because there is no employment contract, the terms of service are vague, said Daw Thet Thet Aung of Future Light Centre.

“So they face a situation where none of their rights are likely to be guaranteed,” she added.

Also, there are no guidelines on the settlement of labour disputes for housemaids.

A law protecting housemaids would also guarantee their employers that those who come to work in their homes are trustworthy and skilled, said Daw Thandar Win, secretary of the Mandalay Region Women’s Affairs group.

Source: New Strait Times

Published on 23 October 2019

Link: https://www.nst.com.my/world/region/2019/10/532586/nst-region-call-strengthen-laws-protecting-maids-myanmar

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