Migrant rights activists and trade union leaders on Thursday urged the government to stop sending the female workers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries unless it failed to protect their interests at the destination countries.
Speaking at a discussion marking the international women’s day, they said that the country’s image was seriously tarnished by the female migration to the KSA and other Arab countries as they were often victims of sexual abuse, denial of wages and tortures.
WARBE Development Foundation organised the opinion exchange meeting at the National Press Club, that was attended by university teachers, students, returnee migrants and women leaders from different organizations.
Returnee female migrants Yesmin Akter, Jahanara Begum and Shahnaj Begum narrated their woeful experiences of torture and abuse by their employers and alleged that they were denied several months’ wages at these workplaces.
Bangladesh Ovibashi Adhikar Forum’ chairman Nazmul Ahsan said that there were many reports that Bangladeshi female migrants were being seriously abused by the male employers and their sons in the KSA.
He said that as an official team from Bangladesh was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on March 12, so ‘our demand is to raise the issue with Saudi government to protect (the interests of these) workers immediately.’
For a measure of protection, he said that female workers should be allowed to spend their night at dormitories with other housemaids from Bangladesh under the supervision of Bangladesh authorities.
‘Not a single female should be sent abroad unless their protection is ensured,’ he said.
WARBE DF secretary general Faruque Ahmed said that sending female workers to the KSA on conditions of recruiting male workers was tarnishing status, dignity and image of the country.
Faruque, also a returnee migrant turned activist, said, ‘if the government fails to take responsibility to ensure protection of the female workers at the workplaces, we are calling to stop sending women abroad.’
Dhaka University international relations’ associate professor Tanzim Uddin Khan said that it was the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and expatriates who were facing problems at home and abroad.
WARBE DF chairman Syed Saiful Haque, who presided over the meeting, said that it would be impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without ensuring equal rights of the female workers at home and abroad.
Trade union leader Abul Hossain, general secretion of domestic workers’ association Murshida Akhter and WARBE DF director Jasiya Khatoon, among others also spoke at the discussion.
Over 150,000 housemaids are currently working in the KSA as housemaids, according to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
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