Tough steps proposed to end torture of Bangladeshi female expat workers

Tough steps proposed to end torture of Bangladeshi female expat workers

A parliamentary watchdog in Bangladesh has called for stringent steps to stop the torture and harassment of Bangladeshi women workers in foreign lands.

At a meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban in November 2019, the parliamentary standing committee asked the Bangladesh foreign ministry to take the issue very seriously and emphasised that not even a single case of harassment should be tolerated, The Daily Star reported.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen pointed out that around six lakh Bangladeshi women were working abroad, and out of them, around 2.5 lakh were in Saudi Arabia. He added that out of the total number of Bangladeshi women working abroad, around 1% (6,000) face torture and harassment.

The harassment of Bangladeshi women workers is a cause for concern particularly in Saudi Arabia and some other countries. The parliamentary body has advised the Sheikh Hasina government to take effective steps to curb this menace, especially in view of its prevalence in places like Saudi Arabia.

According to the committee, personal information on female workers ought to be collected from the expatriate welfare ministry before these workers are sent abroad so that their condition can be monitored.

However, foreign ministry officials revealed that the expatriate welfare ministry did not inform them about the female workers after sending them abroad. It is only after a victim informed the Bangladesh mission that incidents of torture are known, Momen said. The foreign ministry officials also pointed towards irregularities taking place while sending female workers abroad, including sending job seekers aged below 14 and above 65 abroad.

In order to address this issue, the Bangladesh government is planning to set up hotline numbers at different Bangladesh missions abroad. These numbers would be given to all female migrant workers, who would be able to dial the numbers and seek help if they faced any trouble.

Foreign ministry officials also mentioned that following communications from them, several Saudi nationals have been booked by the law enforcement authorities of that country over the torture of women workers from Bangladesh.

A large number of Bangladesh lawmakers had demanded an end to sending women workers to Saudi Arabia after bodies of several hundred female workers were sent back from Saudi Arabia. According to the Brac Migration Programme, Bangladesh received bodies of 311 women workers from the Gulf countries, mostly Saudi Arabia, between 2016 and June 2019.

However, the parliamentary panel agreed with the foreign ministry that it would not be prudent to stop sending women workers abroad considering the massive foreign remittances sent home by these migrant workers.

A committee member highlighted that a female worker sends home about 90% of her monthly income against 60% by a male worker. Therefore, bringing female migrant workers home would significantly cut Bangladesh’s income from foreign remittances.

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