Print Edition - 2014-10-28  |  Development

No solution in prohibition

  • Instead of restricting women workers from visiting the Middle East, the government should be focusing on their safety and job security
No solution in prohibition

Oct 27, 2014-

The government ban on Nepali women from going to the Middle East, particularly the Gulf countries, to work as domestic help has had a very little effect, as hundreds of women continue to enter the Middle East countries through India with the help of foreign employment agents. Some 50,000 undocumented Nepali housemaids work in Saudi Arabia, according to the Nepali Embassy in Riyadh.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) had imposed the ban on 14 June 2014, concerned over the reports of abuse and exploitation faced by Nepali women. Before that, the prohibition only applied to women below 30 years of age. The age limit was introduced in August 2012, almost 18 months after the government lifted a 12-year-old ban on Nepali women from visiting the Middle East.

In the past four years, the government lifted the ban on Nepali women from visiting the Middle East, introduced age criteria for women to  work as housemaids there  and went back to proscribing female workers from entering the the Middle East altogether. All these decisions were taken as measures to address the plights and sufferings of Nepali female workers in the Middle East, and to discourage others from taking illegal channels to visit there for employment. None of the prescriptions proved effective.

According to Bishnu Rimal, president of General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (Gefont), imposing prohibition on migration of female workers to the countries in the Middle East is not a solution to all the hardships and problems that they face. “The government needs to come up with a proper mechanism to address the problems of the female migrant workers rather than stopping them from going to the Gulf as domestic workers,” he says.

The restriction set by the MoLE is said to be temporary and would be lifted once it sets up a proper mechanism to ensure the safety and security of the female migrant workers.

Officials say that they have been working on guidelines to make it easier for women to work as housemaids in the Middle East. “We have been working to prepare new measures and guidelines for the formation of better regulations to protect and prevent female migrants from being cheated at home and in the Gulf,” says Bhola Prasad Siwakoti, secretary at the MoLE.

Efforts are also on to sign a separate labour agreements for domestic workers with the Gulf countries that receive labour from Nepal. Nepali female workers are apparently forced to endure economic, physical and psychological abuses, mainly because of the lack of proper laws and policies to protect their rights at their workplace. Many female migrants also  complain of low pay and denial of food and accommodation. “The monitoring system of the government is not satisfactory and sufficient due of which the female workers continue to be cheated abroad,” says Rimal.  

Despite safety concerns, many Nepali women continue to go to the Gulf countries for employment  through illegal channels, which makes them more vulnerable.  “It is due the irregularities the female migrants undergo that have turned the migration into trafficking and other forms of exploitation,” says Basant Basnet, a lawyer who deals with women’s rights issues. He suggests that the government and other concerned authorities should prioritise the safety and security of the female workers migrating to the Middle East, instead of prohibiting them from going abroad for employment.

Published: 28-10-2014 08:53

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