Raising the children of raped migrant workers in Indonesia

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Nov 15 2009

Time Magazine recently carried a report about two Indonesian women who volunteer to raise children who are conceived during rape committed to Indonesian maids abroad. The women-activists, Normawati and Ibu Herlina, take care of several children who were abandoned by their mothers who couldn't face bringing up a child who isn't their husband's. Normawati says that a countless number of women return pregnant from oversees. They share similar stories of rape by their employers. Many of the maids are dumped on the street without their documents after it's discovered that they are pregnant, which often leads to their arrest. Herlina reported that airport officials have called her several times, asking how to deal with abandoned babies.

One such case is that of the mother of Yunnus, who is now a 1-year-old toddler, whose mother worked for a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia. One day when she went to check on the goats on the property, she was gang-raped by two men. Yunnus was conceived during that assault. After giving birth to Yunnus, his mother left him and he is now raised, with about ten other children, by Herlina. Nadia, another toddler who is raised there, was conceived when her mother was raped in Kuwait. According to the women, there are over a dozen children with similar stories around Jakarta.

As we've recently mentioned, the horrible treatment of migrant workers prompted the Indonesian government to stop sending any more of its nationals to work in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. According to the Time report, the Indonesian ministry of Manpower and Transmigration is currently conducting a review of the protection the governments of Saudi Arabia and Jordan offer migrant workers. If the review shows that the governments aren't doing enough, a ban will be placed on Indonesians from working in Jordan and Saudi Arabia altogether.

While we understand the Indonesian government's fear of losing remittances coming from those countries, we think that the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from such horrible abuse as these maids have suffered abroad. Until the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan prove that they are able to enforce their laws and protect migrant workers from abuse, Indonesia should ban its citizens from working there.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East