Mobility rights of female migrant worker challenged in Nepal

 Issues of sexual exploitation and harassment of women and especially with migrant women is a concern for all. Recently with the mobility rights of migrant women being challenged and restriction put on by the Nepal government, has certainly raised issues regarding the safety and identity of migrant workers both abroad and in Nepal. With weak policies and International organization lobbying their policies, it seems underdeveloped countries are not prepared for big policies like such. The issue of women Migration and their mobility has been a huge concern for the Nepal government where due to lack of effective measures and mechanisms women are bound to suffer consequences abroad.

In a recently update it has been reported that thousands of women are stranded in Nepal Embassy in Kuwait with no options except to be deported due to different forms of exploitations and harassments. In this outcry the Nepal government has restricted women bellow 30 years of age from working as housemaids in gulf countries.

One of the research of the UNIFEM quotes, “Labour migration is now perceived as the most important economic growth factor for Nepal in the next 10 to 15 years. As the numbers of Nepalese leaving the country increases each year, Nepal has also increased its reliance on remittances from migrant labourers to keep the economy afloat. An estimated remittance income of NR70 billion (approximately US$927 million) in remittances are poured into the economy by the migrant labour force annually.”

Especially migrant women workers face increasing challenges and concerns in both their home and host countries. As due to the current mobility rights they can travel to specified countries through different channels and are vulnerable to exploitation. Despite legislation and international agreements on human rights, the rights of migrant female workers are daily violated and exploited in one or the other form.

According to a report published by My Republica, “There are more than 300 Nepali brokers who are involved in trafficking of undocumented Nepali female workers to Kuwait and their non-cooperation has impeded the efforts of Nepali mission there to make the workplaces safer and systematize the recruiting process.”

Reality is the mobility rights of Migrant women workers has helped boost the women exploitation and harassment cases as women migrant workers would go through different agent channels where they were vulnerable with no mechanism to check and balance their rights or identity. Such policies have implicated the rates and number of cases in exploitation where in most case women aboard have no voice.

“UN Women coordinating inter-agency efforts with relevant ministries, and, with Pourakhi, had lobbied with the Foreign Minister and the media for an Embassy in Kuwait to support its 40,000 Nepali workers of which 80% are women. Moreover, UN Women sits on government committees including the committee to establish safe homes, which have enabled support to the embassies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and U.A.E to establish temporary safe houses for women,” Source Migration.com

Looking at the past, a ban on migration of women to the Gulf countries was imposed by the Nepali government in 1998 after increase in cases of sexual abuse and harassment, but was partially lifted in 2003.From then destination countries, including Israel, and most notably, Hong Kong, have imposed strict visa requirements and restrictions for Nepali workers. With the recent lobbying of UN women and Pourakhi Kuwait was opened in last November under the Mobility rights of migrant women.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment, about 70,000 Nepali women have reached Kuwait in the last two decades. Currently, 65,000 Nepalese are believed to be working in the Gulf nation and among them 90 per cent are domestic workers.

Likewise, the US State Department Report on Trafficking in Person has placed Kuwait as a high-risk country for the sixth consecutive year and still the country was open with respect to no counter mechanism.

The Himalayan times quotes, “Government sources said the new age bar will apply only to those women who want to work in informal sectors that are not covered by the host countries’ labour laws. The job of housemaid falls under Kafala system prevalent in gulf countries which allow the employers to hold their employees’ travel documents, restrict them from changing jobs and returning to their home countries at their will. Most of the Gulf countries have not signed ILO conventions.”

The current tendency of the Human resource outsourcing practices lacks a system that checks and balances the rights of these workers. During the recruitment process most of the outsourcing companies fails to provide pre-departure training and focuses less on updating the migrant workers about the rights where the migrant workers are stranded in the country once they are place in their jobs.

Ground level Channel

Recruiting Organization ——Agents ———-Migrants Workers

Similarly, in the policy level the international government agencies with support from the local non government agencies lobbies policies that are impractical and lacks future prospects. The Mobility rights to migrant women worker has proven to be one of the cases where in due respect to the above listed information Kuwait was opened as a free destination for worker which was listed as one of the most high-risk country.
Policy level Channel

Regulator ——-INGOs ————NGOs

Reality is most of these women who try abroad lack access to formal recruitment process and have no formal working contracts hence end up with poor working conditions, lower wages and high discrimination, but have little recourse for action. Basically lack of effective monitoring mechanism,

Lack of access to social services and low literacy levels are the major hindrances in this industry. The Foreign Employment Act of 2007 has removed gender-discriminatory provisions, and has added social protections for women migrant workers, including reimbursement of pre-departure orientation fees, establishment of safe homes in countries of employment, government –issued insurance, free legal aid, and scholarships and child-care centers for migrant workers’ children.

Thousands of women had gone to work in Gulf countries, and half of whom were for informal sector jobs. Now the question is who is to be blame for the INGOs or NGOs that lobbied the policies or the government that approved such polices without evaluating future consequences.