House panel to govt: Stop women domestics from going to Gulf

Published On: April 3, 2017 01:16 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 2: The Parliament's International Relations and Labor Committee has instructed the government to effectively implement the ban on Nepali women to travel to Gulf countries for employment as domestic workers. The instruction comes just days after a field investigation by the committee found "widespread abuse and exploitations of domestic workers, mainly females" in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Though there is a travel restriction in place for Nepali housemaids to go to Gulf countries and Malaysia since July 2014, the Department of Foreign Employment is found to have issued work permits to around 500 women in the last one year. Similarly, hundreds of other Nepali women have been leaving the country every month through illegal channels. However, there is  no such restriction for women going abroad to work in sectors other than domestic jobs.

Issuing a circular to all the concerned ministries including the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MoLE), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday, the parliamentary committee has stressed "the need for developing required legal framework and safety nets to protect rights of domestic workers before allowing them to go aboard".  The MoLE has already drafted a regulation on domestic workers outlining perks and benefits that employers should provide to housemaids. 

"We should sign agreements on domestic workers with the labor destination countries before sending our workers there. Until this happens, Nepal should not allow its citizens to visit Gulf countries through legal or illegal channels for domestic jobs," the parliamnetary committee's chairman Prabhu Sah told Republica. 

Nepal has not signed labor agreement on domestic workers with any country so far. Since the Kafala system, or sponsorship system based on Islamic Sharia law, regulates the domestic works instead of regular labor law, Nepal's embassies in the Gulf countries say it is hard to rescue workers during trouble and provide them legal redress. 

The committee has also directed the Home ministry to do the needful to stop Nepali women from leaving the country through informal channels for housemaids jobs in the Gulf.

 During the investigation, the committee found that many housemaids have been using air routes of the South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, while many manage to leave the country via Trihbhuvan International Airport, the country's only international airports, by bribing government officials including immigration officials.

"Many women we interviewed during our field visit told us that they managed to get through the TIA without proper documentation including work permit. They were smuggled out through the TIA by bribing immigration officials and officials at the Department of Foreign Employment," said Sah, adding that they have urged the concerned agencies to take legal actions against staffers involved in the smuggling.

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