Expatriate women workers’ safety
At present, expatriate men as well as expatriate women are playing an important role in the economy of Bangladesh. The journey of women workers in exile started in 1991 with the sending of 189 women workers abroad. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, there are currently about 1 crore 26 lakh 44 thousand 56 expatriates in 173 countries out of which 8 lakh 432 are women workers. Among them, there are 3 lakh 32 thousand 204 workers in Saudi Arabia.
In a country with a large population, more than 2 million male and female workers are being added to the labour market every year, but the employment rate is much lower than this. As a result, we are forced to think about labour migration.
At present about 1 million Bangladeshi women are in exile. Most of them are facing the burden of torture and poverty. It often comes to our notice in the news that many of them have to work non-stop for long periods of time without being paid due salaries. They are not allowed to eat for a long time and have returned home after admitting insecurity, physical and mental abuse and rape.
According to the Refugee and Migrant Movement Research Unit, most of the remittances came during Corona was through women workers. Although women workers send almost all of their income to the country, we are indifferent to this huge share of women workers.
According to statistics, 35 per cent of women returning from abroad have confessed to have faced physical or sexual abuse and 44 per cent of women have not been paid their dues.
In the year 2020, 4 lakh 25 thousand 698 workers returned from abroad due to the corona epidemic, out of which 50 thousand 619 are women. Of which 22,000 returned to Saudi Arabia. Most of these women admitted of being subjected to torture in one way or another. As a result, even after returning to the country, these women are being subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment both in family and socially.
A recent study by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, entitled "Social and Economic Status of Migrant Women Workers Returning to the Country", found that 55 percent of female workers returned home were physically and 29 percent mentally ill and 6 percent did not receive treatment for mental illness.
In addition, 75 per cent have no savings, 63 per cent are failing to meet the needs of their families and 36 per cent are considered low-caste women in society.
Although they have gone to the Middle East as domestic workers, many women are being raped by their landlords. Some of the raped women are also giving birth to children. A woman has been forced to return home empty-handed after handing over her six-month-old child.
There are many more women who have been raped and have not even given birth to a child. They did not get any solution even after going for legal assistance.
A few days ago, a child whose identity was not found was found near the luggage belt at the airport. It is believed that the child's mother left the unidentified child at the airport after returning from abroad.
A woman from Habiganj took a job as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia in the hope of changing her fortune. Her dream was shattered in 15 days. She fled the country to escape the torture of her landlord. Describing the torture, she said, "He did not give food, bet me, hit me with a spoon and spoke bad language." When asked to leave his job and leave it at the Bangladesh embassy, the landlord did not do so and instead increased the level of torture.
Even after coming to the country, she is in a bad situation, she is not getting children even after divorcing her husband and even her own family is not interested in taking her.
In the last five years, the bodies of 47 women workers came to the country. Of these, 7 committed suicide, 18 died of stroke and 61 died in the accident. A total of 115 deaths have been reported, most of them in Saudi Arabia.
Even then, Bangladeshi women are going to different countries including the Middle East in the hope of changing their destiny. The country is smiling at the remittances sent by them. But the smile on the faces of many of them is disappearing and the families concerned have fallen into the deep sea.
Women workers must be trained before being sent to the Middle East or other parts of the world. The government must provide all kinds of security to women workers. "It is better for women workers to be sent to caregivers, garments or other occupations instead of domestic work. And even if they go as domestic workers, they have to make sure to use their mobile phones. If there is any torture or harassment of women workers in exile, the system of providing assistance to them should be continued immediately.
Our country's embassies and governments need to work to ensure their rights in exile. Just as women workers on foreign soil have to work to ensure their expected life, they also need to have facilities including rehabilitation, guarantee of normal life after returning to the country. The relevant embassies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Overseas Employment and Expatriate Welfare, Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training must come forward and ensure their safety ensuring technical training of workers, increasing employment opportunities and protection and rights of migrant workers in line with the world market.
The writer is a student, Jagannath University