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Talking Point

Eeeks! I am being spied on!

Domestic helpers tell OFW Pinoy Star that they are not against the installation of CCTV cameras…but please, not in the bathroom and bedroom

FRANCIS SANTIAGO Special to OFW Pinoy Star

LIKE contestants in the reality TV show Big Brother, the lives, actions and behaviour (or misbehaviour) of some Filipino domestic helpers (or  kasambay in Filipino) in Singapore are being monitored through closedcircuit television (CCTV) cameras.Every single move – the way they eat, sleep and take a bath, how they relax, what appliances they use, how long they spend in front of the TV, and how they do their chores, etc – are being captured and recorded frameby- frame.
The difference: While Big Brother contestants find pleasure in this set-up because of the lure of prize money and fame dangled at the end of the show, our domestic helpers feel uncomfortable and find it an invasion of their privacy - especially if the cameras are installed in their bedroom and bathroom.
While Big Brothershow contestants know they are being watched by millions as a form of entertainment, some of our domestic helpers, who left their families in the Philippines to earn a modest living in Singapore, are kept under surveillance because their employers fear they may misbehave during their absence.
Often, lack of trust is the main reason why employers have installed the cameras.Some employers feel vulnerable leaving their homes and their possessions - and their children and perhaps, elderly parents - in the care of a "stranger".

Other employers say the cameras are an added security measure against burglars.
But have some employers gone overboard when they installed cameras even in the bathroom and bedrooms of their domestic helpers?
Mr Seah Cheng Soon, president of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social  Support and Training (FAST), is against the installation of cameras in areas that would invade the privacy of domestic helpers.In response to a question by OFW Pinoy Star on the issue, he said: “We are not against the installation of CCTV cameras for security and safety in the home. What is important is that employers communicate to their helpers the intent and need for such cameras. Employers should not secretly install cameras in the home,especially not in  areas where they invade the privacy of the helpers.”

There should be trust between employers and their helpers and employers should not make things difficult for their helpers, he said.
He said a recent analysis of their 24-hour FAST helpline revealed that 40 per cent of calls from foreign domestic helpers were about work adjustment issues and employers' lack of trust in them, according to a Straits Times report.

“This has resulted in many domestic helpers feeling depressed,alienated and suffering from a lack of confidence in their job. In addition,the lack of communication on the purpose and intent of having CCTV cameras in the home could have further exacerbated the situation,” Mr Seah said.
He added: “It is a challenge for most employers to bring in a ‘stranger’ to work and live under the same roof.To address their family safety and privacy concerns, many employers resort to installing CCTV cameras in their homes. Unfortunately,some employers do not realise the importance of communicating the intent of the use of CCTV cameras to their domestic helpers.”Undoubtedly, a good working relationship – and the building of trust in the relationship between employer and domestic helper is what matters most.

Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director for Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), said “employers who wish to reduce likelihood of their workers abusing the loved ones under their care should take steps to ensure that their domestic workers are not working excessive hours, and that their physical and psychological well-being is taken  care of.”According to the Philippine Embassy, there are 71,500 Filipino domestic helpers working in Singapore.Some of them – especially women who care for infants and the infirm elderly – are overworked, spending 13 to 16 hours a day, Mr Wham said in another Straits Times report.
While many domestic helpers have their own rooms to sleep and rest in between work, there are many others who do not have any private space and end up sleeping in hallways, living rooms and kitchens, in the full glare of surveillance cameras, he said.
A recent study conducted among 670 domestic workers by HOME found that “the invasion of privacy was a risk factor in mental health.”Most Filipina domestic helpers interviewed by OFW Pinoy Star say they do not find anything wrong in the installation of CCTV cameras if they provide peace of mind for the employer. However, cameras should not be installed in the bathroom and the bedroom.
They deserve respect, space and privacy, too.The better employers are often described as providing an environment which welcomes the integration of the domestic helper into the family and who treat their helpers with dignity and even love.

YOUR SAY

A heavy toll is being placed on our mental well-being.

Evelyn Ubungen Obillo - from San Fernando City, La Union

43 years old Working in Singapore
for 13 years

OUTRAGEOUS

It's fine to have CCTV cameras inside the employer's house, for security reasons and for their peace of mind. But putting one inside the maid's room/bedroom and bathroom is simply outrageous and unacceptable. Maids are human, too, and we deserve privacy like everyone else.

 

 

Janelyn Rosario Pascua - from San Juan, Ilocos Sur

41 years old
Working in Singapore
for 10 years

VULNERABLE

No, I don't agree with putting a camera in a FDW’s room. Why? Because that is the only private area where she regularly changes,sleeps and does very private activities. If we have to be watched round-the-clock, with no moments of privacy, a heavytoll is being placed on our mental well-being.

What is important is that employers communicate to their helpers the intent and need for such cameras. Employers should not secretly install cameras in the home, especially not in areas where they invade the privacy of the helpers

Domestic helpers deserve respect, space and privacy. The better employers are often described as providing an  environment which welcomes the integration of the domestic helper into the family and who treat their helpers with dignity and even love..

Seah Cheng Soon,
president of Foreign
Domestic Worker Association
for Social Support and
Training (FAST)

YOUR SAY

Employers should rovide more than a roof and four walls for their FDW, but also an adequate standard of living, as well as the right to privacy.

Bhing Navato-from Teresa, Rizal

42 years oldWorking in
Singapore for
20 years

PARANOID

It is not right to install CCTV cameras in a domestic worker’s bedroom or bathroom. Only paranoid employers will do that. Such employers should not hire domestic workers if they  can't trust them. It will be miserable on both sides. Employers should provide more than a roof and four walls for their FDW, but also an adequate standard of living, as well as the right to privacy.
It is not good to know there is someone watching you on a CCTV camera while you are asleep, having a shower or changing your clothes. Employers should know that it is against MOM rules to invade the privacy of their helpers. To  have a good employer-domestic worker relationship, trust is very important. FDWs have rights to decent working and living conditions.

Land Palmero-Project manager,
Activants Pte. Ltd
from Bulacan.

His family employs
a domestic helper

DO UNTO OTHERS…

I totally disagree with this. Every individual has the right to privacy and respect.Okay lang may CCTV in other parts of the house or even at the entry point sa room ng kasambahay but there should never be one sa loob ng kuwarto, at lalo na sa banyo! Grabe naman yan, hanap kaya sila sa ibang democratic country ng batas na susuporta sa ginagawa nila, that is intrusion of privacy. It would be best to remember the Golden Rule: Luke 6:31 'Do unto others as you  would have them do unto you'.