Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — Nepal has banned women under the age of 30 from working in Persian Gulf nations amid increasing concerns over abuse and exploitation.
Nepalese women are among thousands of Asians who travel to the Middle East in search of employment. They often arrive willingly, but subsequently face conditions that the U.S. State Department says is indicative of forced labor — the withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages for work up to 20 hours a day, threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse.
The age bar is aimed at preventing some of the abuse, Raj Kishore Yadav, Nepal’s minister of information and communication, said Thursday. He said the hope is that the risks are lower with more mature women.
The Nepalese government says 58,000 Nepalese women are working in these Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. However, human rights agencies estimate that number at about 200,000, saying that the official figure does not take into account all those who have traveled illegally, many through India…
…Human Rights Watch, which has documented abuse of Asian women workers in Middle Eastern nations, says Nepal’s age limit policy does not go far enough to address the gravity of the problem.
“Imposing a ban on women under 30 from migrating to the Gulf fails to solve the underlying problem of how desperate women are for decent work,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher for the rights group’s Women’s Rights Division.
Varia said she once visited a hospital in Kuwait that had an entire ward devoted to domestic workers who had spinal cord and back injuries from botched escape attempts or attempted suicide from high-rise residential buildings.
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