By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PULAU UJONG, Singapore – A Singapore couple was sentenced this week for starving their Filipino house maid. The case sheds important light on an issue that is, according to human rights organizations, fairly common.
Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, age 40, weighed only 65 pounds in April 2014, after having been given too little to eat for about 15 months. Gawidan was given two to three slices of plain white bread and packets of instant noodles by the couple who employed her. The diet lacked any source of critical vitamins and proteins, leaving the worker frail and with major health risks. She also had to ask for permission before drinking water, upon which she was only ever given tap water.
The husband, Lim Choon Hong, received a jail sentence of only three weeks and a $7,200 fine while his wife received a sentence of three months with no fine. The presiding judge told the couple that the court accepted that they did not intentionally starve the housekeeper.
The head of the research team for human rights group Transient Workers Count Too, told Reueters that cases of domestic aids being given inadequate amounts of food “happen with alarming regularity.” Singapore’s courts are seeing rising numbers of lawsuits regarding domestic aid abuses.
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) has since permanently denied the couple the ability to employ foreign workers. The Ministry released a statement stating that it has a zero tolerance policy for abuse and mistreatment of workers. Ministry rules state that employers must provide adequate and acceptable accommodations, food, and medical treatment to their employees. Despite these ideals, human rights organizations warn that there is still a lot of progress to be made in protecting such worker’s rights.
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