KATHMANDU: The Human Rights Watch on Tuesday expressed its displeasure over Nepal's decision to impose a ban on women under 30 from working in the Gulf countries, and asked the government to revoke the decision saying the latter should improve protections so domestic workers can migrate safely – such as by ensuring full monitoring and accountability of recruitment agencies in Nepal.
The New York-based watchdog further said that the governments in the Gulf should adopt long overdue labour protections and immigration reforms, including ending the discriminatory treatment of domestic workers, to combat abuse of Nepali and other migrant workers.
Citing widespread sexual abuse and exploitation, the Cabinet decided on August 9 to put a restriction on the women under 30 to travelling to the Gulf countries to work.
“Nepal is right to be concerned about its migrant domestic workers, but imposing a ban on women under 30 from traveling to the Gulf does not solve the problem and discriminates against young women”, said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at the HRW.
“A better strategy would be to crack down on abusive recruitment practices, ensure that women migrate with an enforceable contract in hand, and equip embassies to respond quickly to complaints of abuse.”
A ban on work in the Gulf may drive women desperate for work to migrate through irregular channels, putting them at greater risk of exploitation and trafficking, it said.
The rights watchdog further advised the Gulf to adopt long overdue labour protections and immigration reforms, including ending the discriminatory treatment of domestic workers.
Nepali women have been allowed to go to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar since 2010, when authorities lifted a 12-year ban imposed after the suicide of a Nepali domestic worker who had been abused in Kuwait.
According to some reports, 15 Nepali women committed suicide in Lebanon in 2010 while two to three domestic helpers a week seek refuge in the Nepali embassies in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait following abuse from their employers.
Instead of a blanket ban on young women that denies them important employment opportunities, Nepal's government should work with other labor-sending governments to demand stronger protections for migrant workers in the Gulf, the Human Rights Watch said.
It urged the Nepali government to improve training of migrant workers, to monitor recruitment agencies rigorously, and to ensure migrant women know where to get help if they need it.
“Governments in the Gulf should heed the concern about abuse against domestic workers in their countries,” said Varia. “They should move quickly to include domestic workers in labor laws, prosecute abusive employers, and improve cooperation with labor-sending countries.”