The government of Nepal has imposed a ban on women under the age of 30 from working as housemaids in the GCC states, a top government official announced in Kathmandu on Tuesday. The ban has been reimposed two years after the country lifted a ban on nationals taking up employment in domestic services in the Gulf states.
“Young female workers are reported to have been sexually and psychologically exploited in Gulf countries,” Raj Kishor Yadav, Information Minister told the Himalayan Times.
“So the cabinet decided to set the age bar for women migrant workers in the Gulf. Women above 30 years of age are at low risk of such exploitation,” he added.
Thousands of young Nepalese women leave the impoverished country every year to take up domestic and construction jobs in Gulf states. Officials in the Himalayan country lifted a 12-year ban on women being employed in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar in 2010, introduced after a domestic worker subjected to abuse in Kuwait committed suicide.
Nepal authorities estimate around 160,000 workers live in the Gulf, compared to 125,000 in 2008. The majority are thought to be under the age of 25-years old.
The GCC relies heavily on foreign workers to fill jobs at all levels of the economy but protection of migrant workers has become a serious issue following reports of poor working conditions and low pay. Several thousand Nepalese are thought to work in the Gulf illegally despite the ban.
Human Rights Watch Concerned
The Human Rights Watch on Tuesday expressed its displeasure over Nepal’s decision to impose a ban on women under 30 from working in the Gulf countries, and asked the government to revoke the decision saying the latter should improve protections so domestic workers can migrate safely – such as by ensuring full monitoring and accountability of recruitment agencies in Nepal.
The New York-based watchdog further said that the governments in the Gulf should adopt long overdue labour protections and immigration reforms, including ending the discriminatory treatment of domestic workers, to combat abuse of Nepali and other migrant workers.
“Nepal is right to be concerned about its migrant domestic workers, but imposing a ban on women under 30 from traveling to the Gulf does not solve the problem and discriminates against young women”, said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at the HRW.
“A better strategy would be to crack down on abusive recruitment practices, ensure that women migrate with an enforceable contract in hand, and equip embassies to respond quickly to complaints of abuse.”
Human Rights Watch has also advised Gulf to adopt long overdue labor protections and immigration reforms, including ending the discriminatory treatment of domestic workers.