Indonesian female migrant workers (TKW)

Raissa Almira

Slavery may be a word that sounds ancient; but in fact, slavery still exists with a new term, which is modern slavery. Quoted from the World Slavery Index, modern slavery can be defined as the condition in which a person treats others as their property, so that the person’s (slave) freedom is seized and exploited for the benefit of the person who practices slavery; people can be hired and thrown away like goods. Based on data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and BNP2TKI, there are around 5 million Indonesians working abroad as migrant domestic workers, where the majority of them are women. The lack of employment in Indonesia is one of the main reasons as to why many people choose to go abroad for work purposes, plus the salary earned from working abroad is relatively higher than working in Indonesia; the abundant number of migrants is a potential for the practice of modern slavery.

One of the reasons why modern slavery is common to happen to Indonesian female migrant workers is that all labor laws in Indonesia have not provided protection for them. This causes the migrant workers to be vulnerable to exploitation (working hours & wage), sexual harassment, and rape. The existence of this law is supposed to be important to protect Indonesian labor migrants, especially Indonesian female migrant workers, but in fact these laws have not been applied maximally, the real example occurred to Adelina Lisao, a migrant worker from NTT who recently died in Malaysia; before her death she was forced to sleep with a dog and she was by found the citizen in a wounded condition.

As mentioned earlier, being a migrant worker abroad is a work that is vulnerable to violence. This often happens because of the lack of PJTKI (Indonesian Manpower Service Provider) in providing comprehensive training to prospective migrant workers. Examples are migrant workers who will be dispatched to Arab; they are only equipped with basic knowledge of their work, not taught about the culture and character of the Arabs. Lack of understanding of the migrant workers regarding their rights and obligations caused their resignation; where they should dare to act and make decisions under any circumstances, especially in critical situations such as if they are ‘enslaved’ by their employers. The first case of torture of a migrant worker is Adelina Lisao’s case that was mentioned earlier. The rescue team was informed by a neighbor’s employer of Adelina, that her employer often scolded Adelina aloud from inside the house; moreover, the neighbors have seen pus on the burn marks on Adelina’s feet. One day after Adelina was hospitalized, she died. Migrant CARE urges the Indonesian government and the Malaysian government to resolve the case immediately; The Government of Indonesia must uncover the network of human trafficking syndicates that recruit Adelina since she was in her hometown, forgery of documents until placement through an unofficial route to Malaysia. The second case, is the case of Nenih Rusmiyaiti, a migrant worker from Sukabumi who became the victim of persecution of her employer in Saudi Arabia. Nenih is prohibited by her employer from leaving home and extending her passport for fear of escaping or reporting her case to the authorities in Saudi Arabia. The last news from Nenih that she was already under the care of the Consulate.

To protect these foreign exchange heroes (pahlawan devisa), there are at least two important things that the government must pay attention to. The first is the need for increased government oversight of the migrant workers’ issue. Government has responsibility for the safety and prosperity of its citizens, including citizens living abroad. The government deserves to commit directly to every process experienced by the migrant workers, from recruitment process, placement until returning. The government must strengthen the laws and regulations that regulate the security and safety of migrant workers and not just make laws without implementing them properly. The second is to monitor the migrant worker suppliers on a regular basis; the government should ensure that prior to deployment, the migrant workers have to pass the proper training of the recipient country’s cultural education and the work that the migrant workers will do by the suppliers (the agent that sends workers abroad), and do not let any migrant workers leave with illegal files. The government should ensure that the agents of the migrant workers inform the migrant workers of their rights and obligations; it must be ensured that the migrant workers are ready 100% in terms of physically and mentally to work abroad, and Indonesia is always there to support the migrant workers.

Reference :

Alamsyah, S. (2017). TKW Asal Sukabumi yang Viral di Medsos Sudah Diamankan Pihak KJRI. [online] detiknews. Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

A Rohman, A. (2017). Seorang TKW asal Sukabumi jadi Korban Penyiksaan di Arab Saudi – ANTARA News. [online] Antara News. Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

DW.COM. (2018). Jenazah TKI Yang Tewas di Malaysia Tiba di Kupang. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

Lutfia Tisnadibrata, I. (2016). Perbudakan Modern Masih Marak di Indonesia. [online] Benar News. Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

Susilo, W. (2017). Akhiri Perbudakan Terhadap Pekerja Rumah Tangga. [online] DW.COM. Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018]. (2018). Disiksa Majikan hingga Disuruh Tidur dengan Anjing, TKW yang Bekerja di Malaysia Ini Berakhir Tragis – [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

Vadlun. YL, F. (2010). Migrasi Wanita dan Ketahanan Ekonomi Keluarga. [ebook] Sulawesi Tenggara: Media Litbang Sulteng. Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018] 

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