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Women migrant workers must be protected from abuse

The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 29 August 2019 - A report in this daily revealed that over a hundred women migrant workers returned from Saudi Arabia because of horrific abuse at the hands of their employers. Out of the 110 migrant workers, one had died in Saudi Arabia after having committed suicide there. In fact this is not the first time that we have heard about sexual and physical abuse of Bangladeshi women migrant workers by their employers. From January to July this year at least 800 female migrants have returned because of the same reason—torture and abuse and in the last three years the bodies of 311 women migrants were sent from the Middle East, mostly Saudi Arabia.

We are appalled and bewildered by these statistics. Appalled because of the alarming number of such cases and bewildered that this has been allowed to happen for so long. Given the alarmingly high number of deaths and cases of physical abuse, one would think that the government would take immediate measures to put a stop to this shameful, unforgivable situation. Yet every year hundreds of women migrants go to work in the Middle East to work and follow their dreams of a better life for their families at home. These women are not made aware of the risks of falling prey to abusive employers; nor have the governments of the countries where many women migrant workers have faced unbelievable torture (including not being given enough food to eat) been held accountable. These foreign governments must take responsibility for so many deaths and cases of torture of female migrant workers on their soil and it is the Bangladesh government’s responsibility to make sure that the employing countries take action against their nationals for these crimes. Employing countries should also provide protection to women migrant workers and have monitoring systems to keep track of how they are treated.  We of course, want our women to have equal opportunities as men to be able to seek employment abroad and enjoy the benefits of earning high wages. But this cannot be at the cost of their physical safety and mental wellbeing. It is high time that our government puts a stop to such abuse of our women migrant workers. Being in denial about such horrific torture is undignified and shameful.


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