Report: As many as 90% of Nepali women face abuse in the Arab World

by Kal El on September 22, 2011 · 0 comments

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They aren’t the only ones, either. People bitch and moan about slavery in the US, which ended 150 years ago, but no one seems to care about the ongoing slave trade in the middle east.

Nepali migrant women victims of abuse and exploitation


Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – According to a study by the Foreign Nepali Workers Rescue Center (FNWRC), about 90 per cent of all Nepali migrant women are victims of sexual violence and exploitation. The worst cases are in Arab countries where female migrant workers are routinely raped, beaten and not paid. For this reason, the Nepali government limited emigration to the Middle East between 1998 and 2010.

Still, every year, 83,000 Nepal migrant women leave the country in search for work. Most go to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where job opportunities are better.

Arab states are destination of most illegal workers. Out of 67,000 in the Middle East in 2006, only 3,000 had the right papers and a valid contract.

To avoid red tape, many women resort to human traffickers. Pocketing thousands of dollars, the latter promise the women jobs that turn out to be non-existent; instead, they force them to work like slaves for unscrupulous employers.

Sapana Bishwokarna, 26, arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2007. She paid US$ 700 for the promise of a baby-sitting job in Riyadh family. Instead, when she arrived she found out that there was no baby to care for and had to work as a domestic instead.

“The family was one father and two adult sons,” she said. “I could not understand their language and I was punished every day with a beating.”

For months, her employer and his sons abused her. When she got pregnant, they sent her packing back to Nepal without paying her. In her village, Sapana now works as a seamstress to raise her 2-year-old boy.

“I emigrated to become independent but for women going abroad is too dangerous,” she said. “They treat us like animals.”

The authorities do little or nothing to monitor emigration, especially if it involves women, said sociologist Kumar Yatru

About 16 per cent of migrant women come home without any income. Illegal workers have no protection and often their situation is unknown to the authorities.

The government has set up help centre where migrants can learn the language and laws of their country of employment so that they can be aware of potential risks. However, everything is in Kathmandu, which is hard on people from poor and remote areas of the country.

Despite the risks, the number of migrant women is rising, said Saru Joshi, regional programme coordinator of UN Women-Nepal

“In Nepal, women still don’t have property rights,” she explained. “They are still under their husbands or in-laws.”

Instead of favouring emigration, the government should adopt policies that give women rights at home, ensuring equality with men.

Sadly, “Nepal is still a patriarchal country, and cultural and social traditions have limited the policies’ implementation,” Saru said.

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