Maid Abuse Cases in Singapore


Low mentality of some Singaporean employers (and the Government) in treating maids

Askmelah’s Note:  As of 2011, there are curently 201,000 maids working in Singapore. Some of the third world mentality of some employers here (PRs and foreigners included) include:

– Maid abuse: reported cases of maid has to wake up at 5am, work more than 18-20hrs, work at two households or more, given only 1 meal per day or leftover food, non payment of salary, physical abuse (which is liable for imprisonment by law). Some even asked their maids to clean the windows in a unsafe manner resulting quite a few maids fell to their death! (this sad situation has been greatly reduced with the introduction of tough law against the employers and education to maids). This category is by far the worst.

– One or no day off per month: Reasons cited by employers include possible mixed with the wrong company, pregnancy etc (what if our own employers do that to us?)

– No proper accommodation and privacy: no proper room or cupboard for the maid. Some asks their maids to sleep in the hall. Some slightly lucky ones will sleep in the small storeroom with no windows.

– Allow their children to abuse their maid. This category includes kids ordering maid around, not punished by parents when the kids verbally abuse their maids or misbehave etc.

– Heard of some country clubs and condo management banning maids from entering the swimming pools as if they are not humans (there was no apartheid even when the British ruled Singapore)?

– Heard of cases of employers deducting maids salary for breaking things?

While some maids (or Foreign Domestic Workers as the Government like to call them) are no saint either who broke the trust of their employers, we should refrain from treating all maids like slaves or anything less than a human being. For most maids, when you treat them nice with decency, the chance of them behaving will be much higher than otherwise.

Lastly the Government in particular the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should shoulder part of the blame as well. While it collects a huge recurring sum (in the hundreds from each maid each month) from every maid that works in Singapore, it does very little to look into the welfare of the maids. The MOM should do surprise sample checks for example to ensure that the maids are not mistreated by their employers. MOM also should not stoop so low in passing the burden of policing to the employers such as forfeit the employers’ SGD 5000 security bonds when their maids got pregnant (which has since been changed in Jan 2010) or if the maids run away to work elsewhere or elope with her lover. The levies collected should also be used for sending the maids home such as those who are jailed or pregnant, rather than passing the bucks to the employers (see article More proactive reviews of maid policies needed below). It will certainly helps in fostering a more trusting relationship between maids and employers here. The levies collected should not be a revenue-generating income for the Government, do some good please for the maids who work their guts here, the least a decent Government here can do for them.

[Updated 5 Dec 2011: Kudos to MOM for the following proactive changes: In place of the English entry test, a new mandatory Settling-In Programme (SIP) will be rolled out by middle of next year]

The report below from The Straits Times highlighted one such sad case, the employer – a Singaporean husband and a Taiwanese wife – has been alleged not giving door access (a basic right!) to the maid resulting her need to risk her life to escape from the employer. She also accused the employer of asking her to start work at 5am and only given one meal of leftover food. It is still unknown to say who is guilty but such cases have been reported time and again. Some among us are truly ugly Singaporeans.

maid abuse singapore


[Updated Oct 2011] Extracted from source:

“Today’s maid from the Philippines or Indonesia is no longer the same as older ones who came in the 70s or 80s. She is generally better schooled, has higher ambitions and is probably less deferential to orders rudely given. The agency representative said: “You can’t work her like you could her mother!”

Dwindling supply is, however, not the only worry. For years, they have been losing the competitive edge against Hong Kong and Taiwan employers because of a special S$345 (US$265) monthly levy they need to pay for hiring a maid. This means that, although the monthly costs add up about the same for the three countries, the maid in Singapore takes home only half of what she gets elsewhere.

Effectively, a maid who works in Hong Kong and Taiwan has a much higher take-home pay because the tax is minimal.” (Askmelah’s Note: with the standard of living in Hong Kong and Taiwan about 20-30% higher than Singapore, the effective cost of hiring a maid is actually higher in the case of Singapore mainly attributable to the Government’s maid levy)


[Updated 17 Jul 14:  the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has moved to ban certain “unacceptable practices” – including the “insensitive advertising and inappropriate display” of maids by agencies. Source]

Everyone deserves a break

Making ground rules clear is key

Source: Todayonline Jun 27, 2011


AS EMPLOYERS, many Singaporeans cite personal reasons to deny their helpers a day to be out with friends. But if our employers cite personal reasons to keep us on overtime every day, we would complain or threaten to resign.

My helper is given one day off each week. This seems a big deal to many maids living nearby, as though I am the only Singaporean doing so. I make the ground rules clear to my helper, am concerned for her but do not intrude into her personal life.

Maids are adults and if we entrust our food and family to them, why do we not trust them? The contract with an employer is one where they are required to discharge certain household duties. Their private lives are none of our business. If they get into trouble, the contract is terminated.

We worry about how they would change when they mix with their friends and things which have yet to happen. Reports often highlight maids in trouble and, over time, this has created a negative bias in us.

But there are maids who have been working for the same employer for years. One I know has been with the same employer for 21 years. Many others for years.

Denying them of a day off a week to let their hair down may in effect create more problems for employers.

Some maids may not want weekends off as it means having less savings. But the issue of compensation should not be enforced on them.

Since there are families who may really need extra help during weekends, perhaps the Ministry of Manpower could consider allowing maids to work part time.


Treat domestic helpers with respect
Letter from Raymund Koh Joo Guan

I REFER to the letter “The troublesome cost of days off for maids” (June 23) by Sheila Shanmugam.

Why is it that when it comes to discussing rest days for maids, the first thing employers think of is, “my maid will learn bad things from her friends” or “my maid will become pregnant”? While such things do happen, I do not agree that we should generalise with every domestic helper.

There are many wholesome activities maids do on their rest days. Some have picnics in the park, some go to Internet cafes to chat on the webcam with their family back home, some get their hair done. Meeting their friends for lunch or dinner is part and parcel of socialising.

What gives employers the right to withhold such basic rights? Would employers themselves work seven-day weeks and still have their own bosses restrict them from meeting friends or communicating on their mobile phones?

It is naive to believe that a person would remain good if kept at home every day. I have a neighbour whose maid was not even allowed to go to the neighbourhood minimart alone. A year into her contract, during her routine medical check-up, she was found to be pregnant!

The best thing to do is to get close to your maid, know who her friends are and know about her movements as much as possible. But no one can work seven days a week for two whole years and still remain sane. If employers want a safer environment especially when their maid is employed to look after young children, my advice is, treat her well and with respect like a fellow human-being.

More proactive reviews of maid policies needed

Source: The Straits Times  Jul 5, 2011

THE Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) reply (‘$5,000 security bond not forfeited if maids get pregnant’; June 25) to Forum letters stated that the ministry has removed employers’ liability if the maid gets pregnant or breaches other Work Permit conditions that relate to her own behaviour.

If this is so, it is confusing that the onus is placed on the employer to locate the missing maid and when found, the employer is financially penalised.

The security bond, therefore, should not be affected if a maid absconds. Common sense dictates that no maid would abscond if she has grievances which can be addressed by the appropriate authorities.

The expenses for locating missing maids should be paid out from the levy collected by the Government.

After all, according to MOM, the ministry forfeited an average of 65 security bonds for maids each year between 2005 and last year.

Should the missing maids be found eventually, those maids, and not their employers, should be accountable for their own repatriation. Why are employers paying for the irresponsible behaviour of their maids?

Second, a maid who is homesick and wishes to go home should pay her own fare.

Furthermore, if a maid has committed a criminal offence such as theft, or abuse of the elderly or infants, the burden of repatriation should not fall on the employer. Repatriation expense should be paid out from the accumulated levies collected.

How can employers be expected to comply with a policy that is made contradictory by policymakers? When we are constantly reminded to be proactive, it means having the foresight to anticipate what could happen in the future.

There should be half-yearly reviews of government policies when unfavourable feedback from the public is received rather than acting in hindsight after a mishap and blaming it as an isolated case or unforeseen misfortune.

Alice Cheah (Ms)
Managing Director
Caregivers Centre


Maid abused 8 months, makes desperate escape from 3rd-storey flat

Source: The New Paper, Mar 09, 2014

She was punched and slapped violently.

Why? Because she ate four slices of bread.

On another occasion, she was hit so hard on the head that she felt giddy.

Why? Because she did not know how to use the milk bottle steamer.

In eight months with her employers in 2012, Indonesian maid Yulianti was physically abused, made to sleep on a carpet at night and was allowed to bathe only once every three days.

She went from 64kg to 44kg – a loss of 20kg.

Unable to take any more punishment, she made a dangerous escape by climbing out of her employers’ third-storey HDB flat at Edgefield Plains in Punggol in August that year.

On Thursday, her employers – married couple Nuraini Hassan and Muhamad Al-Hafiz Nordin, both 30 – pleaded guilty to a total of nine charges of voluntarily causing hurt to Ms Yulianti. (More)


Employer used household items to hit and burn domestic worker

Source: The Straits Times  22 May 2015

 Inline image 1

A woman heated a metal ladle until it was red hot and placed it on the calf and bare back of her domestic worker because she did not like the taste of the curry she cooked, a court heard on Friday.

About a week before that, Suganthi Jayaraman, 33, used a metal pestle to hit Ms Naw Mu De Paw, 24, on her head for not frying vadais – a deep-fried snack – fast enough.

The Myanmar helper bled heavily from the two spots she was hit, but was forced to continue frying, and to take the vadais to a provision shop which Suganthi and her husband were then running.

Suganthi pleaded guilty to three of seven charges. The offences took place at her flat in Woodlands Drive 16.

The court heard that during the time the helper was abused – from July 9 to Oct 2, 2013 – she lived in constant fear of being beaten again.

She was often afraid to tell anyone about an incident and did not even dare to inspect her wounds as Suganthi would scold her for it, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Chua.

Suganthi would also threaten the victim that she would get into trouble if she ran away or called the police.

The victim eventually left the flat on Oct 3 and called the police.

On the morning of Sept 30, Ms Naw woke up late because she had been working till 4am the night before.

She was supposed to be up by 6.30am to send her employer’s daughter to school.

Suganthi confronted her and scolded her harshly after finding the girl still at home. Then she punched her in the face.

Lawyer Louis Joseph said his client, who had been crying in the dock, deserved some discount for her guilty plea.

“Even though her behaviour was unforgivable, she stands before you remorseful and regretful for what she had done,” he told District Judge Christopher Goh, who will sentence her on June 5.

Suganthi could be jailed for up to 10-and-a-half years and fined for causing hurt with a heated substance. The punishment for the other two offences is a jail term of up to three years and/or fine of up to $7,500 each.


Maid who starved for 15 months testifies that her employers watched her every move

Lim Choon Hong (left) and Chong Sui Foon face charges for failing to provide their former Filipino domestic worker with adequate food.
Lim Choon Hong (left) and Chong Sui Foon face charges for failing to provide their former Filipino domestic worker with adequate food.

Source: The Straits Times  15 Dec 2015

The former employers of a Filipino domestic helper who starved for 15 months, causing her weight to drop from 49kg to 29kg, observed her every move and did not let her speak to anyone.

Testifying on the second day of the trial on Tuesday (Dec 15), Madam Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, 40, who claimed she ate only instant noodles and plain bread twice a day, said she was not allowed to go out on her own and did not get any days off.

She also said she did not receive her salary and had her mobile phone kept from her while she was employed by trader Lim Choon Hong and his wife Chong Sui Foon, both 47, from January 2013 to April last year.

The Singaporean couple are on trial for failing to provide Madam Gawidan with adequate food. Lim faces one charge of contravening the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012. Chong faces a count of abetting Lim in committing the offence.

Madam Gawidan told the court that she was allowed initially to use the toilet in Lim’s condominium in the Orchard area. But, after working for few months, she was allowed to use only the public toilet next to the swimming pool.

“Although I sometimes urgently needed to use the toilet, she (Chong) would ask me to wait, and she would accompany me,” she said.

Asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Soo Tet whether she could have bought food on her own, Madam Gawidan said her salary was withheld by her employers, who told her that they were saving it for her.

She only received a $500 “allowance” while working with the family, but was made to put it in a plastic bag and asked to hide it among her dirty clothes.

Asked why she did not tell anyone about how she was being treated by the family, she said: “I was scared of them (Lim and Chong). I didn’t have the courage.

“They’re always guarding me in the house, every movement I make in the house. They’re always watching me, guarding me if I make a mistake,” she said.

“They’re watching me when I wake up, what I eat, what I drink and when to take a shower,” she added.

When the helper told her employers that she wanted to speak with her maid agency, they allegedly told her: “Whatever you want to say to the agent, you can tell us, and we can tell the agent about it.” She said she just kept quiet after that.

After she started work, she also locked her mobile phone in her suitcase, which was not kept in Lim’s house. Her employers told her they would take the luggage to “the storeroom near the airport”.

On one occasion, she saw an Indonesian domestic helper at an opposite apartment unit. The Filipina gestured at her stomach, but Chong saw her and scolded her, saying she was not allowed to communicate with anyone.

Another time, she said, a Filipino embassy staff called Lim and asked to speak to her. The staff told her that a Filipina town mate had gone to the embassy to inform him that Madam Gawidan had not contacted her family or sent any money back. She has a husband and three children, aged 17, 15 and 11.

On two occasions, she said, other Filipino maids inquired about her condition. One time, at the market, one of them asked her why she was so skinny. Another time, while she was in a lift in Hong Kong with Chong and her daughter, a Filipino helper told her in Tagalog: “Your employer is not treating you well, you have to report them.”

On that family trip to Hong Kong, Madam Gawidan said, her employers also took along instant noodles and bread for her; they ate at restaurants on the trip.

On April 18 last year, she said she could not tolerate the treatment any longer, and sought refuge at a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (Home).

She recounted: “They made me clean around the elevator area, and this time they didn’t follow me, so I took the opportunity to run away. I pressed the elevator button down and went inside.”

She went to Far East Shopping Centre, which is opposite Lim’s condominium, borrowed a phone, and dialed the number of a town mate of whom she had memorised .

Her friend, Ms Lilibeth, took her to eat before taking her to the Home shelter.

There, she was given at least three meals a day, consisting of rice, bread, meat, vegetables and sometimes fruits.

The trial is continuing with Madam Gawidan’s cross-examination on Tuesday afternoon.

If convicted, Lim and Chong both face a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

Woman convicted of 12 charges of maid abuse; husband guilty of one

Source: Straits Times 30 Sep 2017

A woman who used an array of household items – such as a hammer, chopper, bamboo pole and stone pestle or pounder – to hit her Indonesian maid, causing permanent disfiguration, was convicted of maid abuse after a 17-day trial.

Also convicted along with Zariah Mohd Ali, 56, was her husband, security guard Mohamad Dahlan, 58, who faced a single charge of hitting domestic worker Khanifah’s head with the cover of a frying pan at their Woodlands flat some time between June and December 2012.

Zariah, 56, had faced 28 charges of maid abuse and two under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

She claimed trial to 12 charges, including hitting the back of the maid’s head with a hammer; hitting her mouth with a hammer; striking her left ear with a bamboo pole; hitting her forehead with a stone pestle; stabbing her left shoulder with a pair of scissors; and forcefully pushing her left little finger.

The court heard that Ms Khanifah, now 37, was from a village in Indramayu, Indonesia. She came to Singapore to work for the couple in end-November 2011. It was her first job in Singapore.

Initially, her relationship with the family was good. But not long after her six-month medical check-up in June 2012, her relationship with Zariah deteriorated.

Her employer began to scold her and subject her to frequent physical abuse.

She hit the victim’s head with a hammer on about five occasions.

Once, Zariah scolded the maid for not cleaning the toilet “clean enough” and for working too slowly. She then hit her once on the back of her head “very hard” with the blunt side of the hammer, causing her head to bleed.

The maid shouted: “Ma’am pain”, but was not given any medical attention. Zariah handed her a sanitary pad to stop the bleeding.

The court heard that her head wounds had not yet healed when Zariah struck her in the same manner on the head on another occasion. Her employer again threw her a sanitary pad to staunch the bleeding.

Ms Khanifah also testified that Zariah used the hammer to hit her on the mouth on more than two occasions.

On the first occasion, Zariah scolded her and told her to grin such that her teeth were bared. Her employer then struck her once in her mouth, hitting the top row of her teeth and the middle of her bottom lip. Her gums bled, her lips became swollen and her teeth were slightly loosened.

On the final occasion, two of the victim’s teeth broke and another two became detached.

There were two instances of Zariah using a 1m-long bamboo pole to hit the maid on her left ear as well as a stone pestle to hit her on her forehead.

The maid also testified that Zariah stabbed her shoulder with a pair of scissors on more than five occasions.

And once, when she was cleaning fish in the kitchen, Zariah scolded her and suddenly held a chopper and slashed her on the left forearm.

The victim was made to wear long sleeves and a tudung to conceal her injuries when she went grocery shopping with Zariah’s daughter.

The offences came to light after she was abruptly sent home by the couple on Dec 19, 2012.

As she had bruises on her face and head, Ms Khanifah was made to wear a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and a tudung on the day of her flight. Zariah’s daughter put make-up on her and gave her a pair of prescription glasses.

Zariah, who had suffered a stroke and was weak on her left side, remained silent in court when her defence was called, but her husband took the stand.

Their defence was that the maid had lied about her abuse and that her injuries were self-inflicted.

The prosecution had argued that the forensic evidence was consistent with the victim’s account of systematic and repeated abuse perpetrated over a period of time.

Mohamad’s post-event conduct in seeking to settle the matter privately and to prevent escalation of the matter to the authorities, was also strongly demonstrative of the couple’s guilt.

On Friday (Sept 29), District Judge Luke Tan found that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

He said the victim gave a clear, coherent and convincing account of the various times she was assaulted, the manner in which the assault was carried out, and the weapons used.

As for the discrepancies pointed out by the defence, he said that they were minor in nature and not material.

The judge agreed with the prosecution that the victim was in a vulnerable position as she spoke no English, had no friends here, and had no means of escape when she was at the couple’s home.


Other related links:

Ho Mei Li, 28, was sentenced to 3 weeks jail for maid abuse by using her leg to step on her chest. — source Straits Times