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Woman jailed 8 weeks for abusing maid, asking her to eat hair and dirty cotton wool

SINGAPORE — In the span of a few months, Tan Hui Mei physically abused her domestic worker three times and asked her to eat hair from the toilet floor as well as a piece of dirty cotton wool.

Woman jailed 8 weeks for abusing maid, asking her to eat hair and dirty cotton wool

Tan Hui Mei, 35, forced her domestic worker to eat hair from the toilet floor as well as a piece of dirty cotton wool.

  • Tan Hui Mei, 35, first hit her domestic worker with a plastic clothes hanger
  • She then slapped, hit and pinched the 26-year-old 
  • The Indonesian worker eventually told her sister what happened
  • Tan’s lawyer said that Tan had hired domestic workers for 10 years and former hirees did not have issues with her 

SINGAPORE — In the span of a few months, Tan Hui Mei physically abused her domestic worker three times and asked her to eat hair from the toilet floor as well as a piece of dirty cotton wool.

The 35-year-old administrative employee, who is now pregnant with her fourth child, was given eight weeks’ jail on Wednesday (May 5).

She pleaded guilty to two counts of causing hurt to her 26-year-old Indonesian worker who goes by one name, Muslikhah. 

Three other charges, including two of harassment, were taken into consideration for sentencing. They include the incidents where Tan forced Ms Muslikhah to eat hair from the toilet floor and a piece of dirty cotton wool that was on a dining table, but court documents did not elaborate on the events that led up to these.

District Judge Shaifuddin Saruwan also ordered Tan to compensate the worker with S$3,200 for her pain and suffering. The compensation was inclusive of two months’ pay because Ms Muslikhah had remained unemployed for some time after reporting the abuse.

The court heard that Tan has three daughters and lived in a Housing and Development Board flat in Tampines. 

Ms Muslikhah arrived in Singapore in November 2018 and started working for Tan around then. She was paid S$600 a month to do household chores and look after Tan’s youngest child, then aged 18 months.

In December 2018, she called the police to tell them that Tan was unhappy with her work performance and had slapped her a few times. 

Tan’s lawyer said that this did not result in any further action as the police viewed the allegations to be unfounded. 

Ms Muslikhah decided to continue working for the family.

Court documents showed that between January and February 2019, Tan hit her with a plastic clothes hanger.

On March 30, after feeding and bathing Tan's youngest child, a toddler, Ms Muslikhah left the toddler and another child with Tan’s mother. Tan was asleep then. 

When the toddler began crying, Ms Muslikhah did not attend to her since she thought that Tan’s mother would do so. 

Tan then confronted her and asked why she did not take care of the girl.

Tan did not accept Ms Muslikhah’s explanation and slapped her on both sides of her face before hitting her forehead thrice. 

The next day, Tan asked Ms Muslikhah to give her a leg massage. When Tan noticed Ms Muslikhah falling asleep as she massaged Tan, she pinched the worker's forearm and told her not to close her eyes. 

Ms Muslikhah then confided in her sister, who was a domestic worker in another household here. 

The other woman called the Centre for Domestic Employees, a non-governmental organisation that helps distressed workers, which in turn contacted the police.

The police went over to the flat on April 22, 2019 and Ms Muslikhah was taken to the hospital. She had a bruise on her forehead and arm from the abuse.

She remained unemployed for about seven months until she found a new employer.

When the authorities first began investigating Tan, she denied committing the offences.


Deputy Public Prosecutor Kathy Chu asked for 12 to 15 weeks’ jail and the compensation order that was later imposed.

Tan’s lawyer, Ms Genesa Tan from Tembusu Law, told the court that her client had employed doemstic workers for over a decade and they never had any issues with her. One of them had offered to write a testimonial attesting to Tan’s good treatment of her.

The lawyer also pointed out that Ms Muslikhah had told her employment agency — just before Tan abused her — that she was satisfied with her work conditions.

“I don’t believe my client is able to fully explain why she did what she did, except that it was impulsive acts and she is remorseful. She is in her third trimester — prison would cause hardship and it's likely she has to give birth there,” Ms Genesa Tan added before asking for the maximum S$7,500 fine or probation.

Tan, who addressed the court in tears, said: “I just want to let you know that I know I’m wrong and my family needs me, and I don’t wish to give birth in prison and be separated from my children.”

In sentencing, District Judge Shaifuddin ruled that a fine or probation was “wholly inappropriate” as there was “some form of psychological harm”, although there was no broader pattern of abuse. Tan began serving her sentence immediately.

For voluntarily causing hurt, she could have been jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$5,000, or both. If the crimes involve a domestic worker, offenders may receive one-and-a-half times the maximum punishment. 

Related topics

court crime maid abuse foreign domestic worker employer

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