News/Malaysia: Malaysia announces new safeguards for foreign Muslim maids, eases rules

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Subject: News/Malaysia: Malaysia announces new safeguards for foreign Muslim maids, eases rules
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 12:17:34 EDT


Malaysia announces new safeguards for foreign Muslim maids, eases rules
Agence France Presse, April 5, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 (AFP) -- Malaysia Wednesday announced new safeguards
for foreign Muslim maids and eased rules on hiring Filipinas and Sri
Lankans as part of a plan to check attacks on domestic helpers.

Non-Muslim employers hiring foreign Muslim maids must now sign a pledge to
allow them religious privileges, said the home affairs ministry's chief
secretary, Jamaluddin Ahmad Damanhuri.

"The maids must be given an opportunity to perform their prayers, fast
during the Ramadan month ... and not handle pork and dogs which are
considered dirty under Islam," Jamaluddin told a news conference.

"Through this effort, we hope we can educate (employers) on certain
sensitivities," he said.

There has been a series of attacks in recent months on maids from mainly
Muslim Indonesia.

In the latest reported case an Indonesian maid said her boss "branded" her
hand with a burning incense stick after accusing her of theft.

A number of employers or their wives have been brought to court or are
being investigated. It is not clear whether religion played a part in some
attacks but there have been complaints of Muslim maids being forced to cook
pork.

Under the new rules employers will have to pay their maid's fare home once
the contract expires.

Foreign maids must sign the same pledge form, stating their willingness to
work for an employer and forgoing any claims on the government.

Jamaluddin said couples with a combined monthly income of 5,000 ringgit
(1,316 dollars) can now apply to employ domestic helpers from Sri Lanka and
the Philippines. The sum was 10,000 ringgit previously.

They can now obtain approval from the state immigration office to hire
maids from the two countries without going through headquarters, he said.

"But we are allowing only one (maid) per family. Applications for more than
that will be considered on merit," he said.

Muslims would also be required to hire maids who were Muslims, he added.

Immigration director-general Aseh Che Mat said the new measures would help
employers find compatible maids and check cases of abuse and runaway maids.

Some 20,000 maids ran away from their employers in recent years, he said.

Just over half Malaysia's population are Muslim Malays, with ethnic Chinese
and Indians making up most of the rest.

There are 162,868 foreign maids in the country, mostly from neighbouring
Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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