The government should ask the host countries to scrap the Kafala law which gives undue leverage to the employers
With reports pouring in about the increase in the number of suicide cases of migrant Nepali women workers, this matter should be taken up immediately in order to reduce such tragic deaths. According to the figures made available by the national report of the National Human Right Commission, the suicide rate has leaped by more than twelve-fold in between the fiscal year 2008/9 and 2015/16. Interestingly, the increase of migrant women was only 2.3 per cent during this period. The female migrants who committed suicide mostly worked as domestic help. Although the official figures state that about 200,000 Nepali women are working in the Gulf countries this number should be more as many migrants reach there through illegal channels. They are reported to be migrating illegally mainly via India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Most of the women who migrate are compelled to commit suicide due to lack of employment opportunities in their native country. There are reports that the female Nepali migrant workers are compelled to serve as forced labour mostly due to the Kafala system under which an employer has complete control over the worker who cannot change his or her job if they desire so. Women constitute less than five percent of the 3.6 million Nepali migrants who were recorded during the period from the fiscal year 2006/7 to 2015/16 and they are often exploited. There are reports of many women being abused sexually and rape is also common particularly in the Gulf countries. The rights of the migrant female Nepali workers should be protected so that they are not exploited in any manner. There should be strict monitoring of the various manpower agencies recruiting women to work particularly in the Gulf countries where they are most vulnerable. The major destinations of Nepali migrants in the Gulf countries are Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. About 1,200 Nepalese go for foreign employment every day and the number of women migrating to work as housemaids is on the rise.
Remittances constitute a major share of Nepal’s economy, but for this, we have to pay a heavy price as indicated by the staggering number of women migrants committing suicide showing how bad their ordeal is. There appears to be a flaw in the regulations regarding female Nepali migrants. The government had some time ago taken drastic steps to halt the practice of illegal migration of women, but it has not succeeded as there are many loopholes enabling fraudulent manpower agencies to traffic innocent female migrant workers. Women migrate by being influenced from the enticing offers of various agents and as a result are tempted to illegal migration to Gulf nations. The victims are leading miserable lives and suffering from immense hardships. Moreover, migrant female workers returning home are often not accepted by society as a whole, and this is a grave injustice for they cannot be blamed. The sorry plight of the female migrant workers should be addressed by the government by asking the host countries to take strict action against those who exploit the migrant female workers. The government should ask the host countries to scrap the Kafala law which gives undue leverage to the employers.
Access to health
Access to health care is one of the major challenges the country has been facing for a long time. Many rural areas where primary health posts have been established to provide basic health care face a dearth of required number of human resources, medical equipment, medicines and qualified doctors. Even though Nepal produces 2,000 doctors, 500 to 600 dentists and many more nurses every year, not many of them serve in the rural areas as they do not find any opportunity to enhance their professional growth and monetary gains.
Producing enough doctors, nurses and medicines only does not guarantee an access to health care. Integrated plan along with the provision of proportional distribution of doctors and human resources, medical equipment and medicines must be in place to ensure easy access to health services to a large population in rural areas. Those doctors who studied medical sciences under the government scholarships should be made to work in the remote and rural areas for a certain period and they should also be given priority for further studies. Nepal has produced an increasing number of doctors. But the problem is how to press them into service in needy areas.
A version of this article appears in print on May 12, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.