Joy, a domestic helper from the Philippines, was helping her expat employers host guests in their home over the weekend when she noticed one of the visitors was showing an interest in her.
Not long after that, they started dating, and he regularly supplied her with additional cash as well as a mobile phone.
Although he was a married man (who was working in Singapore), Joy enjoyed his company and they continued their relationship until he had to relocate.
Regardless about what you think about a single woman dating a married man, it’s not unreasonable that Joy might seek out companionship.
“It is no more unusual for a woman who works as a domestic worker to want love and close relationships than it is for one who works as a teacher or bank manager,” says John Gee of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).
“For migrant workers, there may be an extra element of loneliness in a foreign land, but having a weekly day off and the ability to communicate with family and friends can go a long way to take care of that factor.”
Gee also points out that, under Singapore law, domestic helpers must be at least 23 years old and, as adults, should be capable of managing their own private lives and personal relationships.
Yet some employers are concerned about the unexpected outcomes from such relationships: namely, that their helper might go missing or get pregnant, which would cause them to lose the $5,000 security bond.
However, the fear is unfounded. Since January 2010, employers are no longer liable if their foreign domestic worker breaches Work Permit conditions related to her own behavior.
“If an employer is worried that the worker might get pregnant or might be urged to do something dishonest, talking to her about your concerns is the appropriate thing to do,” says Gee, who notes that employers are within their rights to say whether or not a helper’s boyfriend can visit at their home.
Some employers implement curfews to ensure that their maids are well-rested and mentally focused on rigorous tasks like childcare.
In addition, providing sex education can help to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) provides sex education packages in Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia.
That said, there are more than a few scams involving unscrupulous men who profess to be in love with the women when, in fact, all they want is money.
Gee recalls an incident in which a Burmese woman corresponded online with an alleged British man, who suddenly contacted her claiming to be stranded at an airport and in desperate need of cash. After looking into the matter, it turned out the man had made similar pleas to other women, using the same name and photos online.
Sometimes, though, it’s an employer who feels taken advantage of.
Elaine* recalls that her helper once posted photos of her children on Facebook. She promptly asked her to remove them from the site. When checking her maid’s mobile phone to make sure she’d done as instructed, Elaine stumbled upon naked photos of her helper, taken in the bathroom of their home, and a stream of racy messages.
Her helper explained that she sent these photos and messages to her boyfriend.
More concerning: Elaine’s 10-year-old son told her he’d heard their helper making “kissing sounds” and “funny noises” in the bathroom.
While Elaine acknowledges that helpers are “individuals and have the desire for intimacy,” she ultimately wasn’t comfortable with what her maid was doing in their home, and opted to replace her.
Since then, she’s kept this lesson in mind when selecting future helpers: “I state my preference for one who is married or in a committed relationship back home.”
By Muneerah Bee, The Finder (Issue 279), February 2016
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