Women organisations on Friday demanded the government to stop sending women workers to Saudi Arabia and other countries unless their minimum legal protections were ensured.
The foreign ministry, however, on Thursday asked the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry to take actions against errant recruiting agencies involved in sending female workers to the West Asian countries in general, Saudi Arabia in particular, without maintaining appropriate procedures and precautionary measures.
Women’s organisations demanded compensating the families of the deceased women migrants who were abused and tortured in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
The organisations would hold a rally at National Press Club and submit memorandum to the foreign ministry on Sunday to press home their demands.
‘Sending female workers abroad has become a headache for the government,’ foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said at a briefing at the ministry on Thursday, adding that, ‘some female workers are being tortured in their workplaces abroad, on the other hand recruiting agencies are not following rules and procedures in sending the female workers to the destination countries.’
Momen said he discussed the matter with the expatriate welfare and overseas employment minister. ‘I have requested him to take actions against the recruiting agencies, as well as streamlining the procedure in sending the female workers.’
Momen said about 6,00,000 female workers are now working abroad and 2,00,000 of them are working in Saudi Arabia. Most of the allegations come from Saudi Arabia, he said, adding that nearly 8,000 female workers returned home in recent time.
Fifty-three dead bodies of female workers were brought to home, but ‘we do not know how many of they really committed suicide,’ the foreign minister said.
Asked about the possibility of stopping sending female workers abroad, Momen said the government was yet to make any decision in this regard as there were demands for female workers abroad.
Leaders of a group of progressive women’s organisations at a press conference at Mukti Bhaban in Dhaka on Friday placed nine-point demands those include ensuring financial and social rehabilitation of the women migrants who returned home as victims of abuse, exploitation and deception.
Women Cell of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Samajtantrik Mahila Forum, Shramajibi Nari Maitri, Bangladesh Nari Mukti Kendra, Nari Sanghati, Biplabi Nari Forum, and Hill Women’s Federation jointly arranged the press conference.
Samajtantrik Mohila Forum’s Shampa Basu, citing victims’ interviews published in newspapers, said women workers were sexually abused by male employers and their family members from child to adult.
She abhorred the comment of the foreign minister who called it little number of bodies of women migrants repatriating from Saudi Arabia.
Revolutionary Workers Party central leader Bahnishikha Jamali said the recruiting agencies should be brought under legal responsibilities and should be forced to compensate victims, if necessary. She also called for finding out the government officials posted at Bangladesh missions who neglect women migrants and punishing them.
Luxmi Chakraborty, Amena Akhter, Neeti Chakma, Luna Noor, Taslima Akter Beauty, and Jannatul Mareum were present at press conference.
Between 2016 and June this year, bodies of 311 women workers were sent to Bangladesh from the Gulf countries, mostly from Saudi Arabia and 119 bodies of women workers reached home in 2019 alone, says BRAC migration programme.
Over the past few years, thousands of female workers returned home after being subjected to physical torture and sexual harassment by their Saudi employers.
More than 900 female migrant workers returned from the Middle East till October this year, most of them from Saudi Arabia.
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