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11th-Apr-2016

Our women workers are abused in Middle East: Minister is to be blamed

By Editorial Desk

In the face of the government's failure in creating jobs and stimulating private investors to generate new employment opportunities within the country, young men and women are desperately seeking to try their fate in migration by risking their lives. How much contribution the migrant workers are making for the economy by their toil and sacrifices and losing their honour does not matter to the government that explicitly reflects the government's reluctance to hail the unsung heroes of our economy. Based on their sweat and blood, the country is thriving towards a middle-income country and the steady GDP growth above 6.5 percent but in policy matrix and diplomatic strides the government is seemingly indifferent to their welfare.
A vernacular daily reported that while Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, India and many other developing countries abstain from sending their female workers as housemaids in Middle-East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, due to inhumane physical and sexual torture by their employers, Bangladesh has been sending an increasing number of female migrants to those countries. Such a rising number of women who may easily be subjected to unexpected abuses worries us. Is it worrying the government? The answer is a big no.
In February 2015, an agreement was signed with Saudi Arabia to send woman workers and 20,952 women were sent to the country in 2015. But, in the first three months of this year, 20,036 woman workers have already been sent to Saudi Arabia. Besides, 60,000 women migrated to Jordan, 50,000 to United Arab Emirates, 40,000 to Lebanon, 30,000 to Oman and 17,000 to Qatar in the last three years. Though, domestic violence in the Middle Eastern countries is nothing new, international human rights' organizations have been highlighting the issue for a long time. At least 112 such victims of domestic violence, including sexual harassment, in Saudi Arabia were brought back to the country by the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh with the assistance of two companies. The incident of torture is not limited to Saudi Arabia only, female workers are also being physically tortured in other Middle Eastern countries.  There is a provision of defending the tortured housemaids in the agreement, but neither the government nor the recruiting agencies have taken any legal step to protect the migrants from the abusive behaviour of their employers. In very limited cases, our labour attachés or mission officials respond to emergencies with assistance sought by our migrants, but the response (or lack thereof) in most cases is not satisfactory.
Another daily reported that there is no body in the top position at the labour wings of Bangladesh Embassies in Riyadh, Manama, Abu Dhabi, and Kuala Lumpur for three years, reflecting serious negligence on the part of the government towards the migrant workers. In 2013, the government created the post of Minister (Labour) for joint secretary level officials to lead labour wings of Bangladesh missions in the major labour recipient countries, but no one has so far been recruited in the position. It is simply increasing the plight of labours in those countries.
From the beginning we have been asking the government not to send women workers to Middle East known for abusing women workers and many countries have stopped sending their women workers to these countries. But the government's greed for foreign exchange has put us all to shame. We condemn the Manpower Minister for the sufferings of our women workers in the Middle East. We know no minister has any accountability.