A housewife who scalded her maid with hot water and an iron has been jailed for 18 years in Malaysia. Nirmala Bonat at 19, when she started work for the wealthy Malaysian.
Yim Pek Ha was found guilty of using dangerous weapons to injure Nirmala Bonat on three separate occasions, in one of the country’s worst cases of domestic worker abuse. Ms Bonat said she was beaten and burned for mistakes she made during the five months she worked in Yim’s home in Kuala Lumpur in 2004.
On one occasion, her employer took a hot iron and pressed it against her breasts after complaining that clothes had not been ironed properly. Malaysian newspapers published photographs of a then 19-year-old Ms Bonat, which showed burns and bruises over much of her body.
Yim’s defence claimed the injuries were self-inflicted, but Judge Akhtar Tahir disagreed. He said he wanted to impose a “deterrent sentence” on Yim to show that “sadistic behaviour… cannot be tolerated in a civil society.” Yim’s lawyer called the sentence “excessive” because there was “no loss of life, no disfigurement, no scars” in the case.
The wealthy 40-year-old, who broke down in tears in court, will appeal against the verdict, Jagjit Singh said. Ms Bonat did not attend the hearing because she has returned to her hometown in the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia.
Human rights groups and Indonesian officials have urged Malaysia to strengthen laws to protect some 300,000 Indonesian domestic workers. At least 1,500 Indonesian maids seek help each year at diplomatic offices across Malaysia, officials said.