Fair Labour

by Wednesday.

In today’s Straits Times forum, one Alice Cheah writes that we should harshly punish female domestic workers who become pregnant during the course of their employment in Singapore:

Obviously, maids who work part-time or get pregnant are blatantly contravening the work permit conditions governing their employment in Singapore (‘100 pregnant maids sent home a year’, Sept 29; and the Ministry of Manpower’s reply, ‘Why it’s wrong to let maids work part-time’; Oct7).

So more punitive measures should be adopted against them as well as their abettors.

Abettors? Oh, right, there was a recent newspaper article about how some domestic workers resort to back-street abortions (often chemical) in order to avoid being deported. Some employers also pay for professional abortions in a medical setting, although the domestic workers do fear their names coming to the attention of the Ministry of Manpower (in Singapore, doctors who provide abortion services must submit the names of patients who have an abortion to the Ministry of Health).

Clearly this is a terrible thing to do. But why?

In seeking superficial love or prostituting themselves for quick money, they throw caution to the wind, hoping to escape the consequences of their acts.

Apart from repatriation, many may also experience the trauma of abortions.

‘The consequences of their acts’! Dear Lord, why didn’t I think of that? Sex has consequences, don’t you know. Negative consequences, at that. Sex leads to pregnancy, and a pregnant state is the consequence of sex. You shouldn’t escape this. It is your biological role, woman, it can’t be circumvented. Okay. Look. Wanting to have sex doesn’t mean wanting to become pregnant. Wanting to have sex doesn’t take away your right to choose whether or not you want to be pregnant. How hard is that to understand? (This argument is conveniently unpacked here, for 101ers.)

And the trauma of abortions which are traumatic because… you mean, because of the stigmatisation and harassment of women who have abortions, right? Right? — C’mon, can I have some sense here?

The Ministry of Manpower should impose stiff penalties on the men who cause such pregnancies.

Work pass holders who make maids pregnant should have their passes cancelled as well.

Surely, the fairer and more effective solution is to hold both parties liable.

And here I was thinking that the fairer and more effective solution would be to stop punishing women for having sex, as is their right, whether or not they are immigrants or foreign domestic workers.

Then again, Alice Cheah supports new domestic helpers working without pay for their first few months #, ‘is in favour of using CCTV cameras to watch over maids’ #, and opposes minimum wages for domestic helpers and opposes giving them a day off # (a rebuttal is available here).

(Surprisingly, the latter position seems to be recently adopted on her part. Back in 2005, she was singing a different tune and actually thought domestic workers should be allowed to have rest days — although perhaps that was because, stressed, depressed, and abused, Guen Garlejo Aguilar of the Philippines had murdered and dismembered a fellow domestic worker. So. We have to give maids a day off! Not because they’re human and have the right to dignified labour, but because they could kill people — even us!)

For more information on resources available to foreign domestic workers:

Maid in Singapore is a blog by a Filipino woman working as a domestic helper locally.

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics offers help to foreign workers in Singapore, as does Transient Workers Count Too. In collaboration with UNIFEM Singapore, both organisations run the Day Off Campaign.

The local Roman Catholic archdiocese runs a a commission for the care of migrant workers. Women migrant workers are eligible for financial education courses at aidha.


5 responses to “Fair Labour

  1. There are people who believe that the state should punish just about all sexual behaviour which is outside marriage. They seriously believe that such punishment will help protect the souls of the masses because wrong sexual behaviour is an indication of spiritual impurity. Keeping the masses sexual behaviour in check leads the door open for them to find god and to be saved.

    For this same reason you have abstinence CSE and complete insanity like this: http://bit.ly/bDRjIg

    I am not making this up.

    But once you appreciate that “logic” then this kind of thing is no longer surprising: it is expected.

    They are an odd minority but a very vocal one.

    The question is: are they dangerous?

    • First things first: Do not use ‘insanity’ as a slur. The maintainers of this site identify as neurodivergent/mentally disabled, and would like to point out that this colloquial meaning of ‘crazy’ is ableist.

      That said… I’ve given up on wondering whether or not that OP is a troll. Methinks they are, but whatever. Unfortunately, their views are hardly unique — there are all the people painstakingly profiled in this blog, f’rinstance.

      — Wednesday.

  2. It’s sickening!

    “The Ministry of Manpower should impose stiff penalties on the men who cause such pregnancies.
    Work pass holders who make maids pregnant should have their passes cancelled as well.”

    Statements like these make it sound as if we’re talking about breeding cattle on farms, not PEOPLE who have their own rights and desires and needs.

    “In seeking superficial love or prostituting themselves for quick money…”

    And look how quickly she assumes the worst of domestic workers. Oh, they must be sluts or whores, they can’t possibly be having sex because of love or a steady relationship, because that’s what WE do, and they’re NOT LIKE US at all.

    Alice Cheah, a disgrace to humankind.

      • To me, the word ‘superficial’ indicates that the writer thinks of any love domestic workers could possibly have as something that isn’t meaningful, or sincere, and therefore not legitimate and by extension, “below” any love that she herself experiences. I.E. if she has a boyfriend it’s true love, if her maid has a boyfriend then she’s just a slut.

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