A 37-year-old Filipino helper, widow and mother of two, has escaped after a alleged nine-month ordeal at the hands of an abusive employer.
Throughout her employment, Rowena Uychiat was allegedly forced to work 21 hours a day (6am till 3am) without a day off. She claims to have been slapped, kicked, verbally abused and had her hair pulled. Rowena says her passport and HKID were illegally confiscated and that she was overcharged by her Filipino recruitment agency, having been made to pay the equivalent of HK$8,770.
The case bears similarities to the plight of Erwiana, an Indonesian helper whose former employer is currently on trial for suspected torture. The hearing has been postponed till May 20th.
Rowena was able to escape after her employer’s family went to Macau. A relative, who happened to be a client of the NGO supporting Erwiana, Mission for Migrant Workers, raised the alarm. Activists at the NGO assisted her escape and say that she is keen to pursue justice.
Earlier this year, another helper was hospitalised after her employer attempted to chop off her fingers. Meanwhile, the helper community poured onto the streets on Labour Day calling for the government to act…
Justice for Erwiana Committee spokesperson, Eni Lestari, said that “the fact that Rowena, a Filipina can suffer almost the same experience as Erwiana, means these kind of abuses can happen to anyone irrespective of nationality… The policies that allow slavery to exist are the same policies that cover every migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong.” Eman Villanueva, also of the Justice Committee, said, “The policies that govern migrant domestic workers are designed to keep them disempowered, vulnerable, and desperate”
Despite international pressure, pleas from NGOs and global media attention, the rules that enable such abuse remain unchanged.