Opinion

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Bilateral agreements a must for female workers

Published: 00:00, Jul 03,2019

 
 

IT IS worrying that Bangladeshi female workers employed abroad as domestic helps mostly face sexual abuse, torture and no payment or underpayment of wages. On return home, they often face social problems and hardship, as workers who returned, rights activists, trade unionists, development partners and government and NGO officials said at a seminar in Dhaka on Sunday. The migrants who returned, therefore, sought government protection for women workers abroad. Ain o Salis Kendra says that adequate funds should be allocated for the protection of migrant workers. The government should also ensure the promotion of safe, orderly, regular and responsible workers migration from Bangladesh. As the migration has declined because of the abuse of female workers and the violation of worker rights by employers abroad, remittance inflows also have declined considerably.

Women migrant workers contribute to the remittance earning, but return home abused and exploited. Despite widely reported stories of women migrant workers, the government took very little initiative to make changes in the situation. Women migrant workers are also reported to be facing problems of financial exploitation, excessive workload and language barrier. It is not just the abusive attitude of the employer, Bangladesh missions abroad are also often found reluctant to provide help for the suffering migrant workers. Bangladesh sends workers to 165 countries but has bilateral agreements, which are binding, with only two countries — Kuwait and Qatar. The Bangladesh authorities have memorandums of understanding, which are not binding, with 11 countries — Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, South Korea, Oman, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Maldives and Kampuchea. A situation like this does not help Bangladesh to adequately monitor female migrant worker situation and protect their rights in destination countries. It is in this context the government should pay attention to what people at the Global Forum on Migration and Development summit in Marrakesh have pushed for, which is bilateral agreement. Only this agreement can provide for the best protection for female workers in destination countries.

Bilateral agreements can effectively provide for fair and ethical recruitment of female workers, labour rights and decent work. And Bangladesh must immediately start working to replace non-binding memorandums of understanding with destination countries with binding bilateral agreements to effectively protect the rights of female migrant workers and other migrant workers as a whole and add to the amount of remittance inflows. The government’s effort must also be directed towards exploring countries for alternative female worker jobs where their migration would be safe and engagement more diversified.

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