Nepal pressed to allow female domestic helps

- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
Nepal pressed to allow female domestic helps

Nov 8, 2014-

Ignoring Nepal’s repeated calls to safeguard the basic rights of its workforce through “general” labour agreement, the governments of the Gulf and Malaysia have pressed Nepal to clear the legal hurdle in sending female migrant workers before labour pacts may be signed.

Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—the first, third and fifth largest labour destinations for Nepalis where drafts of the proposed labour pact had been sent—have pushed Nepal to ink an agreement on female domestic workers as a precondition to signing a memorandum of understanding on general workers.

Nepal has forwarded separate drafts of agreement for general workers and domestic helps to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and a draft of labour pact on general workers to Malaysia. Officials said they prepared separate drafts of labour pact on females for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at the behest of the host country to allow the entry of Nepali women as housemaids.

On the sidelines of the 103rd International Labour Conference in Geneva in June, Saudi Deputy Minister for Labour Moufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani requested State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung to open up his country for Nepali maids. Earlier, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies reportedly signed an agreement with its Saudi counterpart to send female workers for 800-riyal-a-month salary.

In a visit to Kathmandu, Malaysian Human Resource Minister Richard Riot Jaem proposed recently to State Minister Gurung to sign labour pact on domestic workers while repeating his promise to sign an MoU for general workers “at the earliest”.

Though the two governments first exchanged the draft in 2011, Nepal and Malaysia had not signed a labour agreement. Nepal sent a preliminary draft of the agreement to Malaysia in June last year—the third proposal in two years.

Recruiting agencies in Nepal said the demand for Nepali maids has rocketed in the Gulf following stringent measures taken by East Asian nations to discourage their female workers from going there in the wake of higher abuse and exploitation.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Lebanon are still grim places for migrants to work with their labour and domestic laws falling short of international standards.

Nepal has barred female workers from work in the domestic sector since July, after a partial ban on domestic workers failed to protect women from exploitation.

Nepal had previously imposed an age restriction for maids below 30 to work in the Gulf. Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Employment say a separate draft on domestic workers was sent to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait following their unwillingness to sign an agreement solely on general workers. The two countries have not responded so far.

Officials say they are making a policy-level change to lift the ban. The ministry is drafting a new regulation that will allow women to travel to the Gulf through recruiting agencies. The guidelines will specify the recruitment procedure to be followed by manpower agencies, pay and other benefits for domestic workers and a rescue mechanism.

More than 60 percent Nepali men and women are currently working in countries with which Nepal lacks a labour agreement.


Published: 09-11-2014 08:53

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