A Singaporean couple have pleaded guilty to starving their domestic worker from the Phillipines.
Lim Choon Hong was jailed for three weeks and fined S$10,000 while his wife Chong Sui Foon was sentenced to three months in jail.
The prosecution, however, is appealing and asking for the maximum jail sentence (1 year) for both employers.
Their domestic worker Thelma Oyasan Gawidan lost 20 kg, which is 40% of her body weight while working for them due to a meagre diet which consisted of instant noodles and bread. She said that she received only small amounts of food twice a day over the 15 month period.
Lim Choon Hong and Chong Sui Food and their children ate more food of better quality and which was also more nutritious. Ms Gawidan was denied more food when she requested it and had to ask for permission whenever she wanted to drink water. She also testified that she had to sleep in a storeroom and was only allowed to shower once or twice a week.
Ms Gawidan was unable to seek any help as the couple had confiscated her mobile phone as well as her passport. She finally managed to flee in April 2014 and sought help from a migrant workers aid group.
Many people hire live-in workers to help them with household chores etc. but abuses are not uncommon. Activists say more has to be done to protect migrant workers’ rights.
During the trial, Lim insisted that they had treated their domestic worker according to their own lifestyle which “revolved around food and cleanliness” due to the fact that Chong suffered from anorexia nervosa which constantly made her want to lose weight and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Ms Gawidan received S$20,000 in compensation but many pointed out that the sentences were too lenient considering the inhumane nature of Ms Gawidan’s treatment.