Time magazine has named an Indonesian maid allegedly tortured by her Hong Kong employer as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, putting the spotlight on the territory’s treatment of its migrant workers.
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, reportedly suffered months of abuse in a case which has renewed concerns over the treatment of domestic helpers in the territory and sparked angry protests.
Time hailed Sulistyaningsih’s bravery in speaking out against her employer and pushing for laws that better protect maids in Hong Kong.
“It is brave women like her who speak up for the voiceless who will create lasting change,” Cambodian activist Somaly Mam said of Sulistyaningsih in the list published on Thursday.
“Erwiana is advocating for better laws to protect others who may share her fate, placing a spotlight on the plight of a vulnerable and often invisible population,” Mam said.
Time’s recognition of Sulistyaningsih brings international attention to the treatment of migrant domestic workers in the territory, Hong Kong-based Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body spokesman Eman Villanueva said yesterday.
“The inclusion itself only proves that the issue of migrant domestic workers, the slavery, the exploitation and abuse is something that the international community should pay attention to,” Villanueva said.
He described the situation as “ripe for abuse” in the territory, where maids are required to live with their employers.
Villanueva also said the maid’s actions and her inclusion on the list will help empower more victims to speak out.
“This would encourage and would strengthen the resolve of many other victims to come out in the open and fight for their rights and seek justice,” he said.
Law Wan-tung, a 44-year-old Hong Kong mother-of-two has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Sulistyaningsih.
Prosecutors have alleged that Law turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against Sulistyaningsih.
She was also charged with common assault and four counts of criminal intimidation — charges related either to Sulistyaningsih or to her two previous Indonesian domestic helpers.
The trial has been adjourned to Tuesday.