Worker rights activists have launched a petition calling for a senior official to apologize after he blamed the widespread abuse of Indonesian female migrant workers on their behavior.
Anis Hidayah, executive director of the nongovernmental group Migrant Care, said on Thursday that the remarks made on May 29 by Maftuh Basyuni, who heads the presidentially appointed task force on migrant worker protection, reflected his ignorance of the workers’ plight.
Maftuh, the former religious affairs minister, had described some of the workers as “flirtatious, naughty and involved in promiscuity” during their stay overseas.
“Such a statement reflects how incompetent the official is,” Anis told the Jakarta Globe. “Maftuh leads an institution that is meant to save migrant workers from the death sentence. With this kind of mind-set, he simply doesn’t suit the post.”
The petition calling on Maftuh to apologize was initiated by singer Melanie Subono and launched in solidarity for former migrant worker Imas Tati. It is also meant to commemorate the first anniversary of the execution of another worker, Ruyati binti Sapubi, for a murder conviction in Saudi Arabia on June 18 last year.
Anis said that while the petition demanded an apology, it would be even better if Maftuh resigned.
“The petition was launched early Wednesday and has gained support from more than 2,000 people,” she said.
It is available online at change.org/supportimastati and addressed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Imas, 23, worked in Kuwait where she sustained serious injuries after falling from the second floor while escaping a rape attempt by her employer. She now lives in destitution in her hometown of Majalengka, West Java, with her legs crippled.
“Officials living in Indonesia have no idea how hard it is to be a migrant worker,” she said as quoted in the petition in response to Maftuh’s remarks.
“There is no time concept, or time to rest. [I] kept thinking of the kids at home and fought against an employer who tried to rape me many times.”
The website has also logged strong reactions from the online community against the official’s remarks.
“Maftuh’s statement is an insult to female migrant workers who sacrifice [a lot] to defend their families and at the same time are being sidelined by the incompetent government,” wrote Ferli Iskandar from Tangerang.
Jeff Kristianto, based in Tajikistan, said Maftuh’s statement reflected how Indonesian society treated women.
“All the crimes against women are blamed on them,” he wrote in his comment. “Our officials’ brains just can’t follow the changes in civilization.”