Returnee migrants and local labour rights activists on Monday demanded immediate ratification of the ILO Convention 189 by the government of Bangladesh as the section upheld the domestic workers’ rights including their access to decent jobs, proper wages, health safety and other occupational rights at home and abroad.
They made their call while speaking at a discussion at the National Press Club in Dhaka. The National Domestic Women Workers Union organised the discussion marking the International Migrants Day.
The participants said that almost all the migrant domestic workers from Bangladesh experienced the physical and mental abuses, wage discrimination and rampant rights violations in the hosting countries.
They demanded policy shift before sending female workers abroad for the domestic jobs specially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Middle-East countries which widely had been criticised due to lack of female workers’ safety.
They urged the government to enact new law immediately in accordance with the Domestic Workers' Protection and Welfare Policy 2015.
Widow Selina, mother of son and daughter, shared her terrible experiences in Qatar as immigrant workers for seven-month last year when she was abused by her employer several times.
‘I was deprived of wages as well as others rights including time for resting and communication with family members in Bangladesh,’ she wailed.
Like Selina, a number of former immigrant workers shared that they did not get necessary security support from the Bangladeshi embassies in the hosting countries.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies executive direction Sultan Uddin Ahmed said the government should rethink about workers’ immigration to the countries vulnerable to the female workers’ safety.
‘The government should take lessons from Sri Lanka and Philippine–two former worker exporting countries of Saudi Arabia–and postpone workers’ immigration from Bangladesh to the countries still allow slavery legally’, Sultan questioned.
Citing that the female workers were now sent abroad under merely Memorandum of Understanding, Syed Saiful Hoque, chairman of the WARBE Development Foundation demanded that migration of the workers should be done under the bilateral agreements between the countries of destination and origin to ensure the parties’ role in protecting workers’ rights.
The union general secretary Murshida Akhter presented keynote paper at the seminar and demanded protections of rights of the domestic workers.
Trade union leader Abul Hossain who moderated the discussion said that female workers were frequently facing sexual abuses, physical tortures and wage discriminations abroad.
Chaired by the union president Ameena Begum, the discussion was also addressed by trade union leades Wazedul Islam Khan, lawyers Zobaida Parveen, Jahan Ara and Mohammad Nazrul Islam, among others.