Many maids come to Singapore for a bigger pay cheque to support their family at home. They would endure arduous hours and frequent scolding, but what would cross the line is probably a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera in their private places at home.
One such story is from Ms. Dewie, whose story was narrated by non-governmental organization Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). She checked the toilet and found a tiny camera hidden in a corner.
It’s common practice for employers to use CCTVs to keep an eye on their maids, particularly those who are left at home with the elderly or young children. This is to make sure that the maids are not abusing family members and that no strangers enter their homes.
Authorities and advocacy groups for foreign workers, however, said employers are crossing the line when CCTV cameras are placed in private areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms. They said all employers must respect the privacy of their employees.
Executive director of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) Jolovan Wham said his group believes that CCTVs where the maid sleeps and rests should be banned as it is an invasion of privacy.
Presently, it is not illegal for employers to install cameras in bedrooms and toilets. However, lawyers said that if surveillance is done in areas where the worker undresses, this could constitute an outrage of modesty.
The Ministry of Manpower said that they receive complaints, they will advise the employers to take down the CCTV. Cases involving insulting of modesty will be referred to the police.
Wham said, however, that they get at least one complaint a week involving the existence of CCTVs in their private spaces.
HOME surveyed 670 maids in 2015, which showed that one out of five had surveillance cameras in her room. However, they choose not to report such violation for fear of losing their jobs. In fact, Ms. Dewie was deported a week after her employers found out she was talking to TWC2.
Director of Comfort Employment Benny Liew said that employers who plan to install cameras should inform their maids first.