Activists hold hunger strike over lack of progress on domestic workers bill

CNN Indonesia – August 14, 2023
PRT Alliance activists hold hunger strike in front of parliament in Jakarta – August 14, 2023 (CNN)

Jakarta – As many as 30 people from the Domestic Workers Alliance (PRT Alliance) began a hunger strike in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) building in Jakarta on Monday August 14.

The protesters are demanding and urging the DPR, as the institution that formulates laws, to as quickly as possible enact the Draft Law on the Protection of Domestic Workers (RUU PPRT).

The hunger strike was chosen as a symbol of concern and solidarity towards domestic workers (PRT) who they referred to as "victims held hostage in invisible hunger".

"At the moment, the RUU PPRT is still stuck after becoming a priority bill in the Indonesian DPR. It has yet to be discussed by the DPR. At the moment we are specifically demanding that the RUU PPRT be discussed immediately during the coming recess period", said Jihan, a member of the group Free Women (Perempuan Mahardhika) at the location of the action.

Jihan said that starting from today, as many as 30 people will stage a hunger strike every day between 10 am and 5 pm in front of the DPR building.

The participants of the hunger strike are members of the PRT Alliance, which includes the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), Perempuan Mahardhika and the Indonesian United Trade Union Federation (FSBPI).

Jihan also said that the hunger strike symbolises the conditions and hunger suffered by domestic workers.

"[Over the last] 19 years there have been a great many, thousands and hundreds of PRT victims whose wages are not paid, cannot get guarantees and are locked up, suffer violence and become victims of slavery by their employers", she continued.

"And we see that the state has played a part in this, but even after 19 years in such a situation, they ignore it and don't want to deliberate or enact the RUU PPRT", added Jihan.

Under the tent where they are sitting while holding the hunger strike, a number of plates containing household implements can be seen such as washing up sponges, baby pacifiers, brushes and chains.

According to Jihan, these implements symbolise all of the household work  that domestic workers are burdened with.

"There is also a clock, symbolising working hours which means they are uncertain. There is no limit on working hours for domestic workers. In fact they can work for 24 hours caring for children, caring for animals also, and they must always be there for employers. But what they get is never as much as they give to their employers", she stressed.

Jihan emphasised that through this hunger strike, she hopes that the state will immodestly provide guarantees and job security to domestic workers.

"Because in acknowledging PRTs as workers, it means there are PRT rights attached to them as workers, regular working hours, standard wages also, and that they continue to be protected by the state when violence occurs", she said.

"If the state acknowledges PRTs as workers, it means they respect the work of women because currently the majority of PRTs are women", she continued.

"We know that the domestic work is not seen by the public or the state as providing any benefits, but we can see that the people in the DPR, employers, businesspeople, they can work, can make profits, because it is certain that the domestic work will be done every day and it is done by domestic workers", concluded Jihan.

The Draft PPRT Law was first put forward for discussion in 2004 but to this day has never been deliberated or enacted by the DPR.

Since 2004 the bill has gone back and forth, on and off the DPR's National Legislation Program (Prolegnas), and for 19 years domestic workers have waited for a legal umbrella to protect them from the various forms of violence, torture and modern slavery that take place.

The Jala PRT has recorded 1,635 cases of multiple incidents of violence against domestic workers with fatal consequences between 2017-2022. In addition to this, there were 2,021 cases of physical and psychological violence and 1,609 cases of economic violence.

Domestic workers are also included as victims of human trafficking (TPPO). The Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) says that it has dealt with 2,597 cases of human trafficking between 2012 and 2020.

Out of this total, domestic workers comprised the largest number of victims or around 58.5 percent (1.519 cases). (del/gil)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "30 Orang Mogok Makan di DPR Gara-gara Mandek RUU PPRT".]