Exhibition and discussion

‘No one should work this way’ Preventing the abuse of domestic workers

Photos taken by the renowned photographer Steve McCurry of abused domestic workers will be exhibited at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, during the month of May. In addition, a presentation and discussion on the abuse of domestic workers and what can be done to end it will take place on Thursday 7th May. Both events are open to the public.

Sumasri was abused by her employer in Malaysia.
For 18 months the journalist Karen Emmons and photographer Steve McCurry - best known for his portrait, “Afghan Girl” - worked on a documentary project to record and expose some of the abuses experienced by migrant domestic workers. They photographed and recorded interviews with workers in four Asian countries. They found extreme physical and mental abuse, child labour, forced labour, trafficking, rape and starvation. Some had been abused in their own countries, others had travelled elsewhere in Asia or to the Gulf states. The subjects were male and female, young and old, educated and illiterate; what linked them was poverty, desperation and a lack of protection. Their abusers were equally varied.

The photos will be on exhibition at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia, Phnom Penh for the month of May. In addition, on Thursday 7th May, Karen Emmons will talk about the project, what they saw and found, and what needs to be done, and will lead a discussion. Both events are open to the public.

'Anis', now 25, from Indonesia, was abused in Hong Kong.
The documentary project was funded by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO estimates there are more than 52 million domestic workers in the world. Many are also migrant workers. Some recent, high-profile cases have helped bring attention to the scandal of domestic worker abuse. These include the case of the Indonesian domestic worker, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whose Hong Kong employer was recently given a six year prison sentence for abusing the young woman. The exhibition includes a photo of another young woman who worked for the same employer as Erwiana, and who was also mistreated.

In most countries domestic workers are not covered by standard workers’ rights legislation and protection systems. In 2011, a new International Labour Organization Convention specifically covering the rights of domestic workers came into force – it is the first international instrument to focus on this group. So far, it has only been ratified by 17 countries.