Women exploited in entertainment sector

Kathmandu, March 6

Bipana Sunar (name changed) works as a singer in  Indrawati Dohori Sanjh, Lalitpur. With a seven-day work schedule, Sunar says she is being treated unfairly.

“When I ask my employers for overtime pay, they ignore the demand. There are 12 singers, five females and seven males, in Dohori Sanjh. Women don’t get paid enough and it is frustrating to put up with this sort of labour discrimination,” says Sunar.

After releasing her Dohori album in 2014, she joined Dohori Sanjh to pursue her career as a singer. However, she feels she is not respected at her office. “ I work late hours every day and I don’t even get  a weekly holiday.”

According to Balkumari Ale of Biswas Nepal, a non-profit that works for the welfare of women in the entertainment sector, only few women are paid the wages they are promised. “Many do not get their paycheck on time and almost all women are paid below the minimum wage,” she said.

“Apart from not being paid as much as their male counterparts, women also face different kinds of violence at their workplace,” says Ale.

Further, Ale informed that girls under 18 are increasingly getting into work, especially at restaurants, after the 2015 earthquake. “More than 200 young girls from Gorkha and Dolakha work in Kathmandu’s restaurants. Many lost a parent in the quake, some face discrimination at home or have a tight financial situation that forces them into employment,” added Ale, president of Biswas Nepal.

“Lack of awareness about minimum wage and labour laws is the main reason for not raising their voices,” says Devi Prasad Lamsal, a human rights activist.

While the minimum wage for eight hours a day is Rs 9,700, women are paid somewhere between Rs 3,500 and Rs 5000. “Workers should be given an appointment letter after working for three months and must be made permanent after working for 240 days. However, restaurants, bars, and other employers in the entertainment sector don’t follow these requirements,” said Lamsal.