Kathmandu, July 26
The National Human Rights Commission has urged the government to lift restrictions imposed on women aspiring to go abroad for foreign employment.
The rights body has also urged the government to make necessary arrangements to send aspiring women migrant workers to foreign countries in a safe and dignified manner.
The Foreign Employment Act-2007 clearly states that migrant workers will not be discriminated on the basis of their gender, however, the government does not seem to be adopting liberal policy for the women who want to go for foreign employment.
According to a report ‘Rights Situation of Migrant Workers’ released by the NHRC last week, the government has imposed complete ban or sometime age restrictions on women migrant workers from time to time. In 2012, the government had placed ban on the women below 30 years of age from going to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates as domestic help. To make the provision further stringent, the age bar was reduced to 24 years in 2015 by imposing ban on the women aspiring to work in Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon and Malaysia.
In March 2017, the Parliament’s International and Labour Relations Committee had instructed the government to impose ban on Nepali women taking up jobs in Gulf countries as housemaids.
However, various studies show that the ban did not stop women from going to Gulf countries, rather they opted for illegal means to go to Gulf countries for employment. The ban on women deprived them of job opportunities and undermined their abilities to become financially independent, the report further stated.
The government had taken such measures to protect women migrant workers from forced labour and other forms of exploitation. “However, these measures have not discouraged the agents active in sending women abroad through illegal means. If a woman goes for foreign employment through illegal means and she gets injured or dies during her illegal stay in the destination country, her family members will not get any kind of financial assistance from the government,” the NHRC said. If a woman interviewed by the NHRC is something to go by, some government employees themselves are actively involved in sending women to restricted countries on tourist visa.
Citing a study of Nepali Embassy in Saudi Arabia, the NHRC said there were around 70,000 Nepali women, who reached the Gulf country through illegal channel, till 2012. “A study by the International Organisation for Migration indicates that the restriction imposed by the government on women aspiring for foreign employment has failed to stop their flow,” the report stated.
“The ban or age bar on woman migrant workers is clearly discriminatory in view of foreign employment law of Nepal, international human rights law and ILO Convention. The government should realise that discriminatory provisions will not ensure protection of women,” the NHRC said.
A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.