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UN's worrying report on Indian women migrants in Gulf

June 04, 2012 22:35 IST

Indian women form the third largest female migrant workforce from South Asia in the Gulf but often end up in vulnerable situations while working for employers there as justice is out of their reach, a latest United Nations report has said.

Titled 'Migration of Women Workers from South Asia to the Gulf', the report which was released on Monday, said that the migration of women from South Asia to Gulf was likely to increase despite conditions that could lead to exploitation.

"It is also likely that women migrants will continue to encounter discrimination and exploitation at different phases of the migration cycle, in both sending and receiving countries," the report said.

The report was also critical of provision that made it mandatory for female emigrants from India to have completed matriculation or be of 30 years of age.

"Though it was initiated with the objective to protect the rights of workers, anecdotal evidence indicates that the provision not only restricts the rights of women to work but also promotes unregulated migration, where female workers end up in more vulnerable situations", the report said.

The UN report said that in 2010, about 6.45 million international female migrants originated from south Asia of which Nepal sent the highest number followed by Sri Lanka and India. In 2010, Saudi Arabia received the highest proportion of Indian migrant workers to the Gulf region.

The report pointed out that recruitment in Gulf countries was carried out under the 'kafala' system under which contracts were very individualised and made women workers highly dependent on their employer.

"Insufficient pre-departure orientation makes single women migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation and human rights abuse, as they are often duped by agents or employers," the report said.

The report points out that domestic work remains, in many cases, outside the purview of labour laws, making women all the more vulnerable when they migrate as domestic workers or service providers.

"Most of the low-skilled women migrants are caught in a web of marginal existence, on account of being women and low-skilled migrants working in the confines of the households where the piercing eyes of labour law do not reach," Anne F Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia said.

Lack of information and proper documentation on women migrants severely inhibits the development of measures that can empower women migrants, the report points out and adds that Migration policy is often not gender sensitive in the case of many countries.

The report suggested that policy discourse should be made more sensitive to the needs of women migrant workers and co-ordinated regional interventions by sending countries and countries of employment should be initiated.

The report also states that standard operating procedures for gender sensitive labour migration management should be laid out and suggested joint response by UN agencies and intergovernmental bodies to protect workers' rights.
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