Dozens of women from the Philippines and Indonesia yesterday rallied at Taipei Railway Station as part of the One Billion Rising campaign to end gender-based violence and exploitation of domestic workers.
The event, which featured a dance performance in the station’s main hall, was to raise awareness about female migrant workers who experience sexual, mental or physical violence, said Gilda Banugan, chairwoman of Migrante International’s Taiwan chapter.
It is the seventh year that migrant groups have held the event in Taiwan as part of the global campaign launched by US playwright and activist Eve Ensler on Valentine’s Day in 2012, Banugan said.
According to the campaign’s Web site, the “one billion” refers to statistics that show one in three women worldwide, or 1 billion, will be beaten or raped in their lifetime.
Female domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because they are not protected by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), Banugan said.
“Rape, sexual harassment, underpayment of wages, illegal fees, overwork, human trafficking, slavery and discrimination — all of these are common issues experienced daily by female migrant workers in Taiwan,” she said.
To better protect their rights, the government should apply the act to domestic workers and incorporate them into its long-term care system, she said.
It should crack down on employment agencies that collect illegal fees and take measures to ensure that domestic workers are given time off, she said.
“We are not slaves. We also need to rest and spend time with our families,” said Fajar Albarokah, a member of the Ganas Community.
Migrant domestic workers are commonly overworked and underpaid, Albarokah said. “Even on days off, we are required to do work that is not part of the contract before we leave the house or when we come back.”
The government has done little to improve the rights of migrant domestic workers in the past seven years, said Wong Ying-dah (汪英達), director of the Serve the People Association’s Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers.
“Those who can participate in today’s [yesterday’s] event are the lucky ones. Many had to ask for the day off a month before to be allowed to come,” Wong said.
With little protection from the government, many migrant domestic workers do not even have one day off a week, he said.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Labor conducted last year, of the 234,907 migrant domestic workers in Taiwan, 34.6 percent are never given rest days.
On average, they work at least 10 hours a day and receive a monthly salary of NT$19,927, the survey showed.
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