My husband and I worked day and night to provide for our daughter and elders at home in Sri Lanka. Later, when my husband fell ill, I became our family’s main breadwinner. To keep our finances afloat, I needed to find a long-term job.
I approached an agency and was very quickly matched with an employer in Hong Kong. They demanded payment for a fee of HKD$15,000 up front, which they claimed would cover for my insurance and other miscellaneous fees. After payment, however, I was not given a receipt, and was not even asked to sign my employment contract. It was strange, but to secure the job, I did as I was told.
Upon my arrival in Hong Kong, the agent immediately took away my contract and passport. I finally got to meet my employer four days later, and only then did I learn that in addition to cooking meals for their family, I was also expected to care for my employer’s physically disabled father. When I asked about food arrangement, I was told that in Hong Kong, employers have no obligation to provide food or food stipends to their migrant domestic workers. Since it was my first job in Hong Kong, I did not question my employer’s words, and bought food out of my own pocket.
My work begins at 5 every morning and I rest at 9 at night. The hours may sound reasonable, but the truth is, I had to get up every two hours during the night to help my employer’s father use the bathroom. The fatigue, however, was not my breaking point. What I could not tolerate was the constant sexual harassment committed by my employer’s father. He often demanded sexual favours and would intentionally touch me without consent. Whenever I expressed my refusal, he would hit me with nearby objects. I was left with multiple scars, from my head and neck to my back and limbs. It was a hellish nightmare. But because I needed the money for my daughter’s education and my husband’s medical treatments, I clenched my teeth and tried to endure.
Finally, as the abuse escalated and the torment more unbearable, I ran away. I reported my situation to the police, but regrettably, they did not further investigate. After that, my case was referred to STOP through another NGO. It was then that I realized I was a victim of forced labour. With assistance from STOP and a human rights lawyer, I pursed a case against my former employer to claim damages. Yet, as there is currently no anti-human trafficking law in Hong Kong, it’s a long battle ahead. To this day, I am waiting for justice to be done.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor. The photo is not of the actual victim.
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