Home News Nepal Nepal Bans Female Workers to Gulf Countries

Nepal Bans Female Workers to Gulf Countries

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Download The Nepalese government bans their women under 30 from going to work in Gulf countries.

The government says it’s to protect women from being abused.

Nepal now has more than four million people working abroad and for women, working as housemaids is the easiest job.

But should the government ban or protect the migrant workers instead?

Rajan Parajuli reports from Kathmandu.

"I remembered my husband that day. I couldn't stop my tears. If my husband was good, I wouldn't have to leave my country and my five grown up children. I never had happiness in my life… (crying)... All my children were crying outside. I was crying in the airport. I couldn't stop crying during whole flight. I had to do it to see my children happy, and for my secure old age."

Kamala Chaudhari left Kathmandu to Kuwait last May to work as house maid.

She didn’t have any training or knowledge about Kuwait, its culture or language before working there.

Her agent just promised her around 200 US dollars a month. But she was abused instead.

“One morning, I heard a noise outside the kitchen. I came out. There were few men standing. I didn't look at their face because that's what I was told. But suddenly, they threw some liquid to my body. I couldn't breathe after that. I didn’t know what happened after that. When I woke up, I was in the hospital bed. Everywhere was blood and scratches in my body. There was a big wound in my thigh. Scratches and wounds were all around my stomach and breast."

Kamala stayed only for four months in Kuwait. She says no women should work in any Gulf countries. She can’t walk properly and still experiences regular headache and pain all over her body.

She returned home with the help of Paurakhi, an NGO working for the rights of female migrant workers.

Agni Rai is a paralegal officer in Paurakhi. She says most of the cases come from Gulf countries.

"We have more than 500 complaints from migrant workers. The cases range from extortion to sexual abuse. Most of them were seriously beaten at home. They were not provided food and they didn't get the salary. In more than 90 percent of these cases, migrants have gone abroad without any document.”  

This isn’t the first time Nepal has imposed ban on female working to Gulf countries.

The first ban was in 1998 after the case of Kani Sherpa who was gang-raped and pushed to her death from a balcony while working in Kuwait. Kuwaiti authorities said she had committed suicide.

The ban was lifted two years ago and the country now sees nearly 2,000 Nepalese people going to Gulf contries everyday in search of work. Around 15 percent of them are women.

Director of Foreign Employment Department Kashi Raj Dahal explains why the ban is needed again, especially for women under 30.

"The main problem is the Labor Law doesn't govern the household workers in Gulf countries. Our embassies are repeatedly reporting different cases of sexual and physical harassment. Our Nepalese women are not being paid for their work. Eight working hours a day is not applied at all in the region. Our responsibility is to protect our women.”

Q. But why do you think the age bar will resolve this issue?

“It is because most of the women going to gulf countries are below the age of 20. We have found that they have no idea where they are going. What kind of job they have to do. Even our neighbouring country India has set the age bar of 30 for women to work as a housemaid in Gulf Countries.”

This is a training center for female migrant workers in the northern suburb of Kathmandu.

It’s a compulsary course for all migrant workers, run by a recruiting agency with a government license.

Shiva Chandra Manual teaches here.

"We teach the students about the language and how to clean, wash and cook. I have to teach them the knowledge about related offices like embassies, labor ministries, foreign tourism, and workers’ rights. I am teaching them also how to be safe there, if employer gives the torture.”

22-year old Sabina Bajgain pays full attention in class. She comes from a small village in Western Nepal.

Despite previous abuse cases, she’s not worried about working in Gulf countries.

“For us the easy and confident job is housemaid because we have been doing that here too. I don’t really believe that women are completely unsafe in Arabian countries. If we are abused there in those countries, that country also has a law. We have to complain to the concern agencies. We go there for job. That's all. If I am confident, no one force me to do something that I don’t want. So many women are working there and cases of harassments are few. If I get the attractive salary, I don’t mind going in Arabian country.”

According to the government, there are currently 40 thousand Nepalese women working in Gulf countries. But migrant workers activists claim the actual number is higher. And only a tiny percent have legal work permits.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch is urging the government to revoke the ban and instead improve training for migrant workers, monitor recruitment agencies and ensure help for migrant workers.

Saru Joshi Shrestha is a program specialist in the United Nations' body for gender equality. She says the government should do more to protect all migrant workers, including the females.

"There should a local unit, local bodies at the municipality. They should really disseminate the information of foreign labor migration. Both the countries, country of origin Nepal and country of employment Gulf countries, they should put domestic work into the labor law. It has to be formalized. They don't have it now. Another is that, we have undocumented worker in Gulf countries. They have to really work on this issue making invisible women become documented workers. The embassy has to be fully equipped with proper human resources and economic resources. They should have cars, vehicles, lawyers, doctors, and councillors. There is a huge demand but the supply side is really weak.”

The Nepali government will review the ban if the situation changes in Gulf countries.

But wherever Nepalese migrant workers go, Sobha Mogar shares her survival tips while working in Kuwait for two years.

"First we have to know where we are going to work. If we know the language, that helps a lot. You should always have a good relation with your employer. Share every problem with them. And try to get the recruiting agency manages to visit the house every month or something like that. That will also create pressure on the employer to treat us nicely."
Last Updated ( Monday, 17 September 2012 21:55 )  

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