Nepali Times
RUBEENA MAHATO
This Is It
To hell and back


RUBEENA MAHATO


The only reason Nepal hasn't turned into a failed state is because millions of young people from this country are sending money home from India, the Gulf or Malaysia. The latest World Bank survey shows Nepal's poverty rate has declined, the macro-economic situation looks healthy and remittances are pumping money directly into the countryside.

But the state's apathy towards the welfare of migrant workers is despicable. The rot starts right at the top. Last week a minister sacked the head of the Foreign Employment Department who was trying to stop kickbacks and punish fraudulent recruiters.

An increasing number of young Nepali women are now going abroad, and already one-third of migrant workers are estimated to be women. Most work as domestics, are unregistered and outside the purview of legal and state protection when they face abuse by employers.

At Pourakhi, an organisation set up by returned women migrant workers themselves, there isn't a day that goes by without one raped or battered woman being brought from the airport to the shelter. Most have been so brutally tortured, they return with bruises, broken bones, teeth knocked out, or so emotionally scarred that they are unable to speak.

Others are victims of financial exploitation, made to work 21 hours a day with very little food and in dire conditions. Yet year after year, despite the publicity these stories garner, Nepali women continue to travel to India and the Gulf to work as domestics, caregivers and nurses. It is their blood and sweat that has kept the country afloat, but the state couldn't care less about their welfare.

"We wish the government could stop women from going to these unsafe places altogether but they are desperate and the government has nothing to offer," Bijaya Rai Shrestha of Pourakhi told me. "The best thing is to ensure that women go through legal channels, because they will go anyway. Undocumented workers are the most vulnerable to exploitation and have problems getting compensation."

It is almost always the same story. Poverty, domestic violence, and a lack of opportunities drive women to approach unscrupulous recruiters. They sell land, or take loans at high interest rates to go to countries of which they know little, with no skills or language. Upon arrival, their passports and visas are confiscated and they are made to work like slaves. Many women come back with babies fathered by employers, hundreds are languishing in jail after being raped, and an unreported number take their own lives as a last refuge.

The government says it lacks resources to control the exploitation of Nepali women by Nepalis themselves. Nepal doesn't have an embassy or adequate staff in many countries, and diplomats are undermotivated or do not know how to negotiate with Kuwaiti or Saudi officials.

In the last four months, Purna Chandra Bhattarai, the new director general of the Foreign Employment Department tried to clean things up. He had sanctioned Rs 40 million in compensation to wronged workers, took action against errant recruiters and refused to register agencies that did not fulfill minimum standards. This was the first time someone tried to do such a thing in a department known for corruption and exploitation. But under pressure from the 'manpower mafia', Labour Minister Sarita Giri unceremoniously removed Bhattarai last week.

There may be few things beyond our control, but the government could easily pressure the minister to leave honest civil servants like Bhattarai alone. It could sign MOUs with safer destinations for domestic workers like Hong Kong and Singapore, train them in household skills and language before they leave, offer them safeguards and insurance. It could ratify ILO Convention 189 to protect the rights of domestic workers.

What is stopping the government from ensuring something as simple as providing workers with contract papers in Nepali? We complain about abuse abroad, but the exploitation starts here. If only the state made sure that the provisions of the Foreign Employment Act are strictly enforced, there would be a huge improvement in the condition of migrant workers.

All migrant workers should be compulsorily given pre-departure orientation, recruiters who charge more than the government's upper limit as service charge or do not fulfil the conditions of work contracts should be punished, Nepali embassies abroad should be more accountable and better able to come to the help of those stranded.

This is the least the government can do for women like Bhagwati (see box) who would have never left if they could earn few thousands in the country itself.


"Lucky to be alive"

Bhagwati BK , left for Kuwait to support her four children and an alcoholic husband. She had knife cuts all over her body, and her employers dumped her at the airport. The Nepali embassy came to her rescue and flew her home. "I am lucky to be alive," she says.

Madhu Biswokarma, left for Saudi Arabia in hopes of a better future but has come back with scars all over her body and face. She was brutally beaten by her employers, who knocked off her teeth, banged her head with pointed heels and cut her with shards of broken glass.

In 2009, nine Nepali women committed suicide during a nine month period in Lebanon alone. Returnees brought back horror stories of abuse and exploitation. But when asked if they would go back, most will say they have no choice and hope they get better employers next time.

Sangita Lama
was raped by her recruitment agent in Nepal and was threatened not to tell anyone. When she gave birth to a baby girl in Kuwait, her employer sent her back to Nepal.

Parbati Tamang was tortured by her employers till she agreed to convert to Islam. Upon returning from Saudi Arabia, her family refused to accept a Muslim into the house.

(Some names of women have been changed.)


Update: Labour Minister Sarita Giri has been removed by the prime minister over her
alleged involvement in corruption.
Click here for more.

Read also:
Womanpower, RUBEENA MAHATO
Migration should be a choice, not a compulsion



1. Nirmal
As rightly pointed out by the special American envoy a couple of months back that Golf countries are the new destinations of nepali women trafficking and the concerned authorities have done very little to address their plight. One just needs to walk around the TIA to verify her claim and we'll see that now the flow of women trafficking has been diverted to these countries from India. I've recently witnessed it. I found that so many women didn't know where they are heading towards, where they are going to work, what will be their jobs, via which countries they are travelling and which documents they should have in their hands for a safe immigration. All I could see is a total ignorance, their hands with a bundle of nonsense papers and their eyes with full of obvious question marks. The environment is not conducive to their safe departure. The manpower agencies do not tell them how they are going to travel, the govt treat them with completely discriminatory policies, the immigration dept harass them as If they are the potential criminals and the airlines companies speak them in !!ENGLISH!! I'd say that in some ways all these sides(IT MEANS WE) are responsible for the buying and selling of Nepali women abroad.


2. BJ
The only reason Nepal hasn't turned into a failed state is because millions of young people from this country are sending money home from India, the Gulf or Malaysia.
Very well said.I frequently travel to all the above mentioned countries, meet with fellow Nepalis, and they all say, it's tough, but the embassies and the authorities back home show complete apathy towards their problems and they go on about how Filipinos or Indians are protected by their state. The Nepali authority just answers "kasle aaunu bhaneko thiyo?". That's the best answer we can give to our hardworking breadwinners who are keeping the country afloat? This should be the national shame, not some minister getting stuck in Dubai or the Prime minister not receiving proper protocol in India.
Great article Rubina, Keep up the good work!



3. Soulmate
good work!! 

4. Bbhatt
Great job Rubeena!! You truly are a journalist par excellence and you always deal with extremely relevant issues..


5. RDR
Yes, I couldn't agree more with Rubeena. The plight of Nepalese female workers is not something new that we are witnessing. It has always been there but the only difference is today, it can't go unnoticed anymore. I am glad, there are some female journalists who is advocating, or creating awareness at the very least unlike Sarita Giri, the disgrace of Nepalese women. 
Thank you very much Rubeena for your great reporting. Keep the news coming.  

However, I think you should do more research on this matter and bring the issue to a whole new level. Be persistent and keep digging more. 

The fact that Nepalese government is not doing enough is more an enough answer. The government has to find a way and help women of our country to better their life !! 



6. Nabin
It breaks my heart to learn about this & every other time the events of horror is more gross & more heartbreaking. Pls suggest as to how we, working professionals, students, people from the urban community can do something about this.

7. sugar

Been hearing about exploitation of Nepali workers abroad since I was a child. So, the government of Nepal has not made absolutely any effort to make better the lives of the workers in the last two decades? Are there ABSOLUTELY NO institutions where the workers abroad can reach to?

 

Also, where exactly are these women working? What class do the employers belong to? Are they employed in the city or somewhere remote outskirt? I FAIL TO UNDERSTAND why would anyone inflict so much pain on the vulnerable workers. While cases of rapes and mental torture to convert religion are not unheard of, slashing and smashing women is abhorrent! Is it the 'culture' there to treat domestic help like this? WHY? Why exactly are they beaten up? Why are RAPED Nepalis languishing in jails?

 

First, if the diplomats are too under-motivated to negotiate or work with the officials, employ the returned-migrant-workers in this sector. They are more aware of the problems, are more familiar with the culture and would certainly take the safety of workers seriously. Its a source of income for Nepal. The least the government can do is protect the workers from being abused! Act URGENTLY for god's sake.




8. Ramprasad
Great work Rubeena....Nepali times should forward this article to the prime minister and all the other nincompoops. They must learn protecting the people ,protecting our nations incoming generating population should be their top priority...and regarding those undermotivated officials.they are the product of nepotism ..they are rampant not only in the gulf nation but everywhere.

9. Anuj
Picture speaks itself !!! This is why we want federalism based on ethnicity. We will create environment where our CHELIs do not have to toil in line like the one shown above and get raped by those bastards here in Nepal or Arabian bastards. 

10. H Rai

Government must stop women working  middle east and other countries as maids or similar unskilled workers where human rights are not respected,and women and poor people are treated like animals.

 



11. Mr. Poudel

Thanks for a great write-up.

I don't really care what World Bank says, Nepal is already a failed state and your article proves one aspect of it.



12. kumar paudel
very well presented.. keep writing the burning issues. b

13. K. K. Sharma

Yet another depiction of New Nepal. 


14. Tennessee

As a Filipino overseas worker in the Middle East for the last 30 years, I have seen how Filipinos' condition have improved during the past decade. Although there were many things put in place, at least I could mention two or primary importance: first, a much improve representation through a proactive agreement at ministerial/ambassadorial level with the countries that receive our workers, and second, a pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) which provides every first time migrant worker a comprehensive seminar conducted by a specific branch of the Labor Ministry to understand the conditions (both positive and negative) that the worker may face and what type of help is available for them when faced with a dire situation.  I mention this in the hopes that Nepal will be able to enchance the procedures if these two items are already in place and/or put them in place if still unavailable. 

In a globalized economy, workers' migration is inevitable. And I hope every Nepali overseas worker the best; always carry with you the Nepalese Embassy's contact numbers of the country you are travelling, a cell phone and few dollars to buy a sim card (these come in very handy at all times).



15. Suman Ghrti
NEPALI WOMEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THIS BECAUSE THEY CLEARLY KNOW BEFORE GOING OTHER COUNTRY TO WORK. THAT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN WITH THEM . 90% GIRLS GO TO ABROAD FOR ONLY PROSTETUTION AND NOTHING FOR ELSE.


17. raj
hey guys look at this , our nepali sister doing great job in delhi we should be proud >>>>>>>>>>>lol :   http://www.google.co.in/search?q=nepali+girls+in+gb+road&hl=en&prmd=imvnsb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=KheJT72sII_OrQf3js3HCw&ved=0CGQQsAQ&biw=1163&bih=601

18. Melan Thapa
Hi my all Nepali brothers , Pls do not marry or get in relation with any girls who has been in India . The reason 95% girls and women are involved in prostitution and there is high risk of AIDS. If anyone wants proof from me , I CAN PROVE THAT AS WELL .
PLS SAVE NEPAL....


19. Manu ale
Hi there  ,  I've gone through above article specially last four posts. being a Nepali I am very ashamed to know this whatever is happening  or doing nepali girls or traffickers.  

My question is, what is the future of ?Nepal when every month arount 1000 gilrls are moving to abroad for only prostitution ??????????????/

 


20. nepali cheli
Suman Ghrti & Melan Thapa - please get a life and check your facts. Yes some Nepali women go abroad for the specific purpose of being sex workers and earning money (and even if they do, you have no right to judge them). The remaining women go abroad in hopes of doing menial labour (coz they have no other option remaining in their homeland) and many of them get duped by Nepali and foreign agents and end up in brothels. Did you not read the article and what it is trying to say before accusing 95 percent our foreign employed women of being prostitutes?

It's men such as you, who act all 'pure' and 'idealistic' and 'innocent' but who also frequently visit these brothels. we should avoid marrying and getting in relationships with the Sumans and Melans of this world.


21. Melan Thapa
Hi  Nepali Cheli , you have no idea what u talking about it seems you know  very less about these. THE TRUTH IS, ONLY 5 - 10% NEPALI GIRLS OR WOMEN GO TO ABROAD WITH REAL WILLINGNESS TO WORK NOT FOR PROSTITUTION. IF YOU DON'T KNOW I CAN PROVE AS I'VE SAID. I HAVE SEEN VERY CLOSELY. EVEN WITHIN THE NEPAL THERE IS VERY HIGH LEVAL  OF PROSTITUTION. ANYONE CAN GET A CHEAP PROSTITUTE FROM THE BAR  AND RESTAURANT OF KATHMANDU  .


22. nepali cheli
sure go ahead, prove me wrong. do some research, make a documentary, write a report. but don't go around spreading baseless "facts". 

23. nepali cheli
also even if we are to admit that 99 percent of nepali women go abroad knowing they are going to enter the sex industry, what gives you the right to be soo judgmental? 

24. Melan Thapa
Dear Nepali Cheli and all my nepali friends , Very soon you will be  able to view our website where in you'll get to know all the list of nepali girls and women who have been involved and currently involved in prostitution outside of Nepal or inside. We are working on it as a part time becouse we have to give some time to our jobs as well we cannot give our full time for this task. This website will be accessed entire world and will  contain maximum numberr of members of sex world (only nepali and pls don't worry other countries's).


25. Melan Thapa
Meanwhile this is our humble request to Nepaltimes.com that please spread the message to entire Nepal (girls)
'NOT TO BELIEVE BLINDLY IN ANYONE WHO PROMISED TO MARRY AND GET THEM TO  INDIA OR SAUDI ARABIA'
Being a famus news group in Nepal , Nepaltimes.com can do this.


26. Mr. Poudel
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/apr/12/nepali-slaves-united-arab-emirates-video?INTCMP=SRCH

27. sad nepali
no 26 - wow that is one of the saddest videos i have seen in my life. this is the REAL nepal, the NAYA nepal where thousands of Nepalis flee to foreign countries and return in coffins. is this what we are going to hand over to our children?

28. Tennessee
Thanks Mr. Poudel (#26) for the link. It is truly heart-rending. I hope the writer of this column will find a way to re-link this video in a follow-up article.

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LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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