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Study reveals women migrants’ woes abroad

Arafat Ara | June 21, 2015 00:00:00

Nearly 66 per cent of Bangladeshi female migrants returned home from abroad with different types of health complications caused by physical tortures, said a study conducted by Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP).

The study carried out in December 2014 showed that 12.04 per cent women came back home with sexual and reproductive health problems, 7.41 per cent with mental trauma and 2.78 per cent with HIV infection.

The study titled 'A decade of women migration from Bangladesh: Achievement, Challenges and Prospects' also said in most cases, health issues especially related to sexual and reproductive health remain silent on the legal protection framework in Arab countries.

The available legal frames in Arab countries have provisions for healthcare for migrant domestic workers through the provision of mandatory health insurance as a condition of work permit. But the coverage of insurance is minimal and sexual and reproductive health concerns are always missing.

The study was carried out on 1,173 respondents, including 836 potential women migrant workers, 256 returnees and 81 onsite domestic helps who received service and assistance from OKUP over last three years.

Women migrants were sent to 18 countries. Middle East countries are the prime destinations which had employed 92 per cent of total women migrants, followed by Africa 4 per cent and Southeast Asia 3 per cent.

Bangladeshi female workers are mostly recruited as domestic helps, followed by garment sector and other informal sectors like cleaner, the study mentioned.

Of the returnees, 31.33 per cent faced different forms of physical abuses, 13.25 per cent sexual abuse, 3.21 per cent verbal abuse while 15.26 per cent reported that they were not paid salary for several couples of months.

Among the victims of sexual abuse, 30.30 per cent got pregnant and 80 per cent of them had abortion and 20 per cent gave birth to babies.

The report said 12.50 per cent went for abortion in the countries of destination while 87.5 per cent did abortion after they returned home as abortion is illegal in all gulf countries. For this reason, victims are forced to clandestine abortion, putting them into more vulnerable condition, it added.

OKUP also found out that migrant domestic workers are excluded from labour laws in all gulf countries except for Jordan. As a result, they are mostly unprotected with regards to rights they are entitled to as human beings.

It said migrant domestic workers in the Arab region become the victims of gross violation of labour rights, human rights and rights as women.

The report, however, showed that more than 36.90 per cent of Bangladeshi women in the 18-25 age group migrate overseas for domestic work while 48.50 per cent in the 26-35 age group and 11.80 per cent above 35 years.

One-fourth or 25.60 per cent of migrant domestic workers have no literacy while about 44.10 of them completed primary education. Around 20 per cent have completed junior secondary while 10.50 per cent secondary and higher secondary level.

Reintegration of migrant workers is an unexplored area in Bangladesh. There is no national strategy and action plan to address the reintegration of returnee workers, including women, the report said.


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