February 11, 2020 / 11:19 AM / 6 days ago

Indian couple gets jail in Singapore's first labour trafficking conviction

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Indian couple was sentenced to more than five years in jail in Singapore on Tuesday for exploiting migrant women, the first labour trafficking conviction in the affluent nation that is home to many foreign workers.

The two Indian nationals were given a prison term of five years and six months each after they were found guilty of exploiting three Bangladeshi women they recruited to dance at nightclubs they ran in Singapore.

The pair was also given a fine, while the male owner of the nightclubs was ordered by the court to pay nearly S$5,000 ($3,600) in unpaid wages, according to a spokesman from Singapore’s Manpower Ministry.

“Both intend to appeal against their convictions and sentences. They are out on bail,” the spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The Southeast Asian nation of 5.6 million depends on about one million migrant workers from countries like Indonesia, China and Myanmar to power its economy, working in sectors from construction to manufacturing and domestic care.

The case was the first conviction since Singapore introduced a law in 2015 in a bid to fight human trafficking, which labour rights groups say migrant workers are most vulnerable to.

Offenders can face up to 10 years in jail, whipping and a fine under the law. There were two other labour trafficking cases pending in court.

Court documents showed the couple had subjected the women to verbal abuse, controlled their movement and confiscated their passports.

The couple was also found guilty of forcing one of the women into sex work.

The prosecution has said the three Bangladeshi women had to work every day and the couple did not pay at least two of them their monthly salary of 60,000 taka ($707).

The government has warned employers that it would take strong action to prevent trafficking cases.

Singapore was ranked “Tier 2” in the latest U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully meeting minimum standards when it comes to eliminating human trafficking.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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