The report that more than a hundred female migrant workers are returning from Saudi Arabia after having endured physical and sexual assault by their employers is hardly surprising. This newspaper has repeatedly written about the plight of our women workers abroad, calling on the government to ensure their safety, dignity and rights. Our calls, unfortunately, have fallen on deaf ears.
Over the last few years, an increasing number of Bangladeshi female workers have gone to Saudi Arabia only to see their dream of a rosy life being shattered. They have been subjected to inhumane torture, sexual assault and denied salaries by their employers in Saudi Arabia, while the local authorities have done little to stop their citizens’ criminal behaviours and protect the workers’ rights.
While negotiating the overseas employment of the female workers, the government should be strict in ensuring that the women workers would receive fair wages and humane treatment and that their employers would be brought to book if they violated their employee’s rights. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case, and many of these women have undergone slavery-like situations in Saudi Arabia.
According to a recent study by International Organization for Migration, many women workers in the Middle East signed employment contracts, which they do not even understand and that do not protect them from discrimination and abuse. The terrible stories from the returning women workers should be taken seriously. That means that the government should reconsider sending female workers to places where their dignity, safety and livelihood are not guaranteed.