The Gulf, a Hub of Labor Exploitation

Gulf countries are fast turning into destinations for women trafficking even though government policy does ‘not encourage’ women to seek jobs there.

Women and children are trafficked, especially for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and UAE. These facts were revealed even as Nepal marked the fourth National Day against Human Trafficking with the theme of ‘Let’s do away with gender-based violence and put an end to human trafficking’ today.

The Department of Foreign Employment says approximately three million Nepalis have migrated to countries other than India for work, both through regular and irregular channels.

According to ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2010’, many Nepali migrants seek work as domestic help, construction workers, or other low-skilled jobs in gulf countries, Malaysia, Israel, South Korea, and Afghanistan through labor brokers and manpower agencies. They travel willingly, but subsequently face conditions of forced labor such as withholding of passports, restriction on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse.

Achyut Kumar Nepal, information officer at Maiti Nepal, said gulf countries are becoming ‘risky zones’ in terms of human trafficking. Most women who return from the Gulf have been diagnosed with mental disorders.

According to ‘ Migration of Nepalese Women to Gulf Countries : Exploitation and Implication on Health’, a report of Maiti Nepal, only 33 per cent women returned healthy from the Gulf. Of the 67 per cent who had medical problems, 57 per cent were diagnosed with some psychological illness or the other, two per cent were pregnant, four per cent had pulmonary tuberculosis, and four per cent had other minor problems. Among the psychologically affected cases, 50 per cent were cases of psychosis like Schizophrenia, ten per cent were manic, 20 per cent had depression, 13 per cent had depression along with psychosis, while seven per cent were anxiety cases.

“Women who arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) come penniless and fully traumatised because they are subjected to physical and mental exploitation,” said Nepal. He further informed that Maiti Nepal had set up a help desk at TIA to monitor women going to gulf countries.

According to recent studies carried out by UNIFEM and Nepal Institute of Development Studies, around 147,000 women are migrant workers among whom 90 per cent are in gulf countries. They are mainly employed as ‘house help’. The report said they are widely exploited and even sexually harassed. Most Nepali women go to gulf countries through human trafficking rackets because government policy does not encourage women to go there, stated the report.

Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, secretary, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare said the government is working to create awareness at the grassroots. According to data, around 10,000 to 12,000 cases of trafficking in persons are recorded every year in the country. India is still the primary destination for women traffickers, added Shrestha.

Source: Himalayan Times

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Economist article on Arab states and migrant domestic workers

"Little better than slavery" Sept. 2nd 2010

http://www.economist.com/node/16953469?story_id=16953469

Basically corroborates the many reports of abuses in committed in Qatar and other Arab states to migrants on this site. Worryingly, people are still willing to go to these countries even though some countries (Philippines, Ethiopia and Nepal) no longer let their citizens go to some Arab countries (Lebanon) to work as maids. Sadly, the article also states such bans have little effect.

It seems that in order to maintain an increasing GDP in Qatar, all kinds of foreign workers are needed. This is not unusual as many countries (such as the USA) have been and continue to be economically hitched to immigration. What is unsettling is the lack of integration of this foreign work force with the governing power in Qatar. Why should 60 % of the population in Qatar be disenfranchised from managerial positions? Or at least not be given the same basic civil rights as Qataris? It is akin to the economic development of the USA by way of the slave trade. Slavery started out in the US a very different animal than what it is remembered as. It began as a rare and expensive (difficult to obtain) form of labor but regardless, slaves could buy their own freedom and begin living and working for themselves in the colonies. Indentured servitude (of English convicts, undesirables, etc.) was far more common until the colonial governments said they couldn't take any more being sent from Europe. Slavery began to pick up as the price of a slave dropped (improvements in transportation technology) thanks to the English and other European counties. Economies of scale introduced drops in the prices of tobacco, cotton, and other exported raw materials meaning that to remain competitive more slaves were needed. The rights of slaves in terms of ability to buy their own freedom was legally removed as slaves began to out number the southern colonial population. Fear of rebellion form the large slave population introduced laws that turned the slave into a non-human piece of property (not that slavery is ever a good thing but historically slaves have had some rights such as recourse on treatment).

If you follow the link above, the X-ray shows several nails and needles in the hand of a maid. She received them from her employer in Saudi Arabia. Although this is stated in the article as an extreme case of abuse, I ask myself what would drive someone (and his wife) to do this to another person? What fear motivated this? Could it be that the political whims of emirate states instill insecurity in the minds of the controlling Arab populaces? Fear of losing a very comfortable lifestyle; fear of having no recourse if such an event is unfair?