100 Women: Maid dies in Malaysia after being left to 'sleep outside with dog'

Image source, Steven Sim Office

A domestic worker in Malaysia has died after suspected abuse by her employer, including being made to "sleep outside with the dog," a politician has said.

The maid, known only as Adelina, came from Indonesia and worked for a family in Penang.

Her employers are accused of not feeding Adelina and allowing her wounds to go untreated.

Adelina was rescued on 10 February after a neighbour reported her situation to politician Steven Sim.

She was admitted to hospital on Sunday, where she later died.

A 36-year-old woman and her brother are now under investigation for suspected murder, police told Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

Their 60-year-old mother has also been detained in police custody.

Image source, Migrant Care
Image caption,
Adelina was found with untreated wounds on her arms and legs

"Adelina's death and treatment made Malaysians very angry," Mr Sim told BBC Indonesia.

Mr Sim went to the employer's home on Saturday to investigate.

"Adelina's condition was weak and she had severe injuries on her hand. She said that for the last month she was forced to sleep outside with her employer's dog, not fed and subjected to persecution," he said.

There has been no final conclusion about the cause of Adelina's death, but possible untreated animal bites, malnutrition are amongst the possible causes, according to Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, director of the Protection of Indonesian Citizens and Legal Entities department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is understood Adelina had wounds that had not been treated and had become infected, leading to organ failure in her body.

BBC Indonesia contacted Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry about the case but was told a statement would not be issued while the police investigation was underway.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said she wanted justice for Adelina.

"The Indonesian Consulate General will provide legal assistance to ensure that the victim's rights are fulfilled, particularly the rights to obtain compensation or remedial justice," Ms Marsudi told local news outlet The Star.

Malaysia is one of the largest importers of labour in Asia, where migrant workers provide cheap labour.

There are approximately 2.5 million Indonesians employed in Malaysia and half of them are working illegally, according to Mr Iqbal.

Other domestic workers come from Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Image source, Por Cheng Han
Image caption,
Adelina slept on the veranda with her employer's dog.

Since the end of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2016, there has been no co-operation between Indonesia and Malaysia regarding domestic workers.

Mr Iqbal is now calling for the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to improve the laws protecting domestic workers.

"We have already expressed our desire to create a new MoU, but have not received a response from Malaysia yet. We hope this tragedy will act as momentum for Malaysia to push the MoU," said Mr Iqbal.

This agreement would also help "employers to ascertain what they pay domestic workers and give them the value they deserve", he added.

Glorene Das, director of Tenaganita, a human rights organisation in Kuala Lumpur that handles migrant workers, says the violence is partly because of the term "servants" in Malaysian law.

Tenaganita maintains that the main reason that the abuse of domestic workers is so prevalent is the lack of legal protection.

The Employment Act 1995 which is meant to protect the rights of domestic workers, does not recognise them as workers but instead defines them as servants.

"Many employers feel that they can subject their domestic workers to sustained abuse and torture with impunity, which sometimes end tragically, as in the case of Adelina," Ms Das said in a statement.

Tenaganita volunteers also had time to meet Adelina, who was picked up at her employer's house by the police.

"Her condition was so severe that she was afraid to tell us what happened to her," said one volunteer.

High-profile abuse cases, including deaths, led Indonesia to ban its women from working in Malaysia in 2009 but the ban was lifted three years later after the two countries agreed on better protection.

One of the most high profile cases was that of domestic worker Nirmala Bonat in 2004.

Ms Bonat said her employer had tortured her with a hot iron.

"I have very bad pain, I can not bathe or sleep because the pain is unbearable," said Ms Bonat during the hearing in 2014.

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