The Nepalese government is preparing to lift the ban on Nepali women travelling to Gulf countries to serve as domestic workers.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment said it is introducing new guidelines, making it easier for women to work as housemaids in the Gulf.
The new measures in their preliminary stage propose better regulations to protect female migrants from being cheated at home and abroad.
Officials said the ministry realised that the ban had failed to discourage women from going abroad, exposing them to greater exploitation risk instead.
Hundreds of women continue to reach the Gulf via India through unscrupulous agents and middlemen despite the ban.
Nepali women are currently prohibited to go to the Gulf to work as domestic help after stakeholders in May decided to impose a ban in response to a rise in cases of their abuse and exploitation.
In August 2012, the government barred women below 30 to go to the Gulf and Middle East to work in the domestic sector 18 months after it ended a 12-year ban for the region.
Ministry spokesman Buddhi Bahadur Khadka said plans are afoot to allow recruiting agencies to send female workers.
“The focus is on strengthening overall security and safety concerns of female migrant workers. The guidelines are expected to make the migratory process of women easier, safer and transparent,” said Khadka.
Officials said there have been renewed efforts to sign separate labour agreements for domestic workers with major labour receiving nations in the Gulf.
The government has been corresponding with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to sign a separate pact for domestic workers.
Stakeholders said Nepali women are compelled to endure physical, economic and psychological abuses primarily due to the lack of strong laws to protect their rights at the workplace.
Though many Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia have recently made major changes in their labour laws concerning domestic workers, none of them meets international standards.
As a result, many women are deprived of legal redress despite complaints of physical abuse, low pay and denial of food and accommodation.
Stakeholders including the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (Nafea) said the new move could find a “realistic solution” to the problem facing female migrants.
Nafea officials estimate that over 100 women leave the country every day to work across the globe despite the ban. They claim that an international racket has been trafficking women who are desperate for work.
“It could be a milestone in regulating the foreign employment sector. It will also ensure accountability on the part of recruiting agencies while promoting safe migration,” said Bal Bahadur Tamang, former Nafea chairman.
Nepal’s embassy in Riyadh estimates that around 50,000 Nepalis are working in Saudi Arabia despite the restriction.
- — By arrangement with The Kathmandu Post/ANN*