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Nepal bans women under 30 from working in Middle East

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Natasha Wilson
WVoN co-editor

Nepal has banned women under 30 from working in Middle Eastern countries following reports of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The ban comes 18 months after the government lifted a 12 year ban on women working in Gulf countries, imposed after an abused woman working in Kuwait committed suicide.

It is estimated that around 1,000 women leave Nepal for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait everyday for jobs as housemaids.

Most Nepalese migrant workers are thought to be working in India, but up to 70,000 are working in Gulf countries, lured by better wages which they can send home to their families.

“Young female workers are reported to have been sexually and psychologically exploited in Gulf countries,” Information Minister Raj Kishor Yadav said in the Himalayan Times English-language daily newspaper.

“So the cabinet decided to set the age bar for women migrant workers in the Gulf. Women above 30 years of age are at low risk of such exploitation”, he said.

Maiti Nepal, which works to prevent trafficking of Nepalese women abroad, welcomed the announcement.

Director Bishwa Khadka said: “We have met several housemaids who were not only raped by their masters but also forced to have sex with the masters’ relatives.

“They are confined to the house and live in a situation akin to slavery”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that banning young women from working in the Gulf was not the solution to the problem and the government should instead find a way to make it safe for women to travel abroad to work.

“Nepal is right to be concerned about its migrant domestic workers, but imposing a ban on women under 30 from traveling to the Gulf does not solve the problem and discriminates against young women”, said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at HRW.

“A better strategy would be to crack down on abusive recruitment practices, ensure that women migrate with an enforceable contract in hand, and equip embassies to respond quickly to complaints of abuse.”

HRW added that the ban would make women who are in desperate need of work migrate illegally, putting them at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.

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