Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy International Domestic Workers' Day!

The situation for migrant domestic workers in Singapore has come some ways since I started opening my eyes to it.

From 2013 onwards, migrant domestic workers in Singapore are legally entitled to a weekly day off, though this is still subject to private negotiation with their employers. Despite the possibility of negotiation, we should not forget that employer and domestic worker are on unequal ground: one pays for the other and can control her physically, and the other has access to a private and vulnerable sphere of the other.

Still, this is better than the situation of migrant domestic workers in other countries, especially Muslim ones (shame!). Although in Singapore itself, we do have power expressing itself at a cognitive level, based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The discourse around domestic workers often involves religion (Islam again -- double shame!).

I had been thinking about this issue for so long, because I always grew up with a domestic worker in the house. And I could not have been happier with the way things worked out how I changed my way of thinking. In a nutshell, this is what I wrote about, and these were my main arguments. If you're interested in the full paper, it's available here.

Happy International Domestic Workers' Day to K, SH, Y, D, T, H, and all the women who have ever helped me and my family: R, M, S, S, Y, SQ, S. May we continue to touch people's hearts and minds!

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