Rini is an Indonesian woman who was a domestic slave in Indonesia, where she was confined to the house, verbally and physically abused, and her salary withheld. She was only able to escape from the situation when one of the other workers in the house died of injuries from the abuse. The government has taken some positive steps towards protecting domestic workers. Following pressure from local and international organisations, including Walk Free, the Indonesian House of Representatives recommended the Domestic Workers Protection Bill for its list of priority legislation in 2016. Rini was enslaved without leaving Indonesia, but significant numbers of Indonesians are exploited in forced labor and debt bondage abroad in Asia and the Middle East, primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian palm oil plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
My name is Rini. I was born in Magetan on 8th May 1987. When I was small I went to kindergarten school, and then I went to primary school at Sidomulyo village. Then I went to junior high in the Public Junior High School SLTP 2 Panekahan.
I stayed home for a while and then I started working. When I was 16, someone was looking for a domestic helper from Magetan, so I went along. I started to work as a domestic helper in Jakarta. I worked for a year and four months. The employer was kind. She often took me along with her outside. On holidays I get time off—I went home during the Lebaran [Muslim festival]. She let me go home during the Lebaran and my salary was given when Lebaran came. And they took me to the Safari Zoo.
After that I worked in Surabaya as a domestic helper for two years. She was a good employer, paid my salary. If I wanted to go out, I just asked permission. But I wanted to go back to Jakarta and so I started to work as a domestic helper in Jatinegara, Jakarta. I must wash clothes, do the cleaning, sweep and mop the floors.
At first the employer was good. She took me outside two times, first she took me to a wedding reception, and the second time she took me to a mall. She had four children. They were good. The eldest is in sixth grade, the smallest is in second grade.
But it started to change at the end of December 2006, after seven months. Sometimes when I make a mistake mopping the floor, if I don’t sweep cleanly enough, when I don’t do the cleaning quickly enough, if I don’t work fast enough, it make my employer angry. At first she only used words. And then eventually she started hitting. She often hit me, every few days. She beat me usually when I make mistakes, not work fast enough, not clean enough. Sometimes she only uses her hands, sometimes she used an object, sometimes with a broomstick. I was strangled too. The husband never hit me. When she hit me, sometimes he did nothing. Sometimes he would reprimand his wife. But then they would fight with each other.
Sometimes she didn’t give me food for a whole day. And then the next she would give me food. So sometimes I would only eat once every two days. She accused me of often stealing biscuits and she beat me, on every part of my body. I never stole them. I really did nothing wrong. But I couldn’t run, I couldn’t get out. I was forced to stay there. I was not allowed to go. And I was never paid any salary and my parents also never received any of my salary.
One day another worker in the house fell down the stairs. She was unconscious but my employer was still abusing her. I felt sorry for her. She’s already passed out, yet they still kept beating her. She stepped on her, grabbed her hair, banged her head, splashed her with water. They took her to the hospital. I stayed at home. And then at the hospital my friend died. I think when the doctor examined her at the hospital she was already dead.
When she died my friend had a lot of bruises on her body, so the doctor was suspicious. And then shortly afterwards my female employer was detained at the Polsek, with the police. My male employer picked up me up at the house and took me to someone else’s house. He told me to spend the night there and tomorrow morning he will pick me up. Then I was taken to the police station and the police took me to the hospital.
I feel happier, happier than I was yesterday. I am getting healthier day by day. My father came here one day after I was admitted to the hospital, then my mother.
Narrative as told to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) affiliate in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2007.