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Saudi Arabia hostile for housemaids



KATHMANDU: Saudi Arabia has emerged as the most hostile place for housemaids — especially foreign domestic workers. A study by the Philippines government about the exploitation of housemaids has revealed that there is physical and psychological violence associated with the job.

The study carried out by Committee on Overseas Workers Welfare, pointed out that more than 70 per cent Filipino housemaids suffered from exploitation and abuse including rape at the workplace. Filipino domestic workers are one of the groups most at risk in Arabian countries, especially Saudi Arabia, it said.

Following the publication of the study, Saudi Arabia banned unskilled Filipino housemaids three months back, and has set eyes on Nepal and African countries for unskilled housemaids. The Saudi government had approached the Nepali government offering jobs for 100,000 housemaids at once.

However, the government decided not to send housemaids in such huge numbers at once because of the security history of workers.

Saudi Arabia is not safe for housemaids, so the government does not want to promote foreign employment there, especially regarding housemaids, said an officer at Ministry of Labour and Employment.

“We have a history that is similar to that of Philippines and Indonesia, but we have not studied it yet,” he said, adding that a study is a must to find out the security situation of housemaids in the destination.

According to him, the government should not send housemaids to the country.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Gulf that does not have a labour pact with worker sending countries — Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others. It has been refusing to sign labour pacts with Philippines and Indonesia which includes the state’s responsibility to safeguard housemaids.

It seems that Saudi Arabia has been exploring new countries to hire housemaids without reforming its laws and introducing policies and programmes friendly to them. In this condition, all worker sending countries must unite and build pressure on the destination, said labour expert Dr Chiranjivi Nepal.

“Every housemaid sending country must conduct a study to identify the status of their workers in the kingdom and start collective bargaining,” he suggested. According to him, the government’s ban on women below 30 years from seeking foreign employment was related to the risks associated with housemaids.

About 70,000 Nepali women are working in the destination but the number of registered women migrants is just 7,000. Most Nepali women reach the destination through illegal routes or channels and work as domestic helps. Therefore, there are instances of excessive exploitation of Nepali housemaids, Nepal added.

Housemaids from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India have been suffering from physical and psychological exploitation but nothing has been done to solve the problem. Recently, Saudi Arabia executed a Sri Lankan housemaid, Rizana Nafeek, in Dawadmi, a small dusty town about 200 kilometres west of capital Riyadh.

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