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India to ban maid emigration to Gulf states and Africa

On May 19, 2007

The Pakistani Daily Times reports:

NEW DELHI: India will ban women under 30 from emigrating to work as domestic help in the Gulf and parts of Africa and Southeast Asia in a bid to curb sex trafficking, a report said Tuesday.

The move came after Renuka Chowdhury, the minister for women and children, said overseas domestic workers had complained of being pushed into prostitution after their employers had seized their passports. A ban will be “imposed on granting emigration clearance to women below 30 if they are seeking employment as housemaids,” Chowdhury, who recently returned from Kuwait, was quoted by the Times of India as telling parliament.

An exception will be made for women who return to India on leave from their jobs and who wish to return to their employers, the ministry for Indians working abroad said. Some 17 countries will be covered by the ban, which was aimed at halting the trafficking of women for prostitution, the newspaper reported. Chowdhury said she was considering a move to require overseas domestic workers to deposit their passports with the local Indian embassy or consulate, aping a model used by Singapore for its citizens, according to the report.

Millions of Indians work overseas, particularly in the six oil-rich Gulf Arab countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. As many as six million Indian expatriates send home 20 billion dollars a year from Gulf states. But reports abound that the migrants are mistreated, according to workers’ associations and human rights groups.

“Reports of foreign women working in domestic positions being beaten or sexually abused by their employers and recruiting agents were common (in 2006),” said a US State Department report on Bahrain, where 130,000 Indians work. In one case in 2003, a 28-year-old Indian domestic worker was hospitalised after being abused by her employer for three months, and received less than one month’s pay over the period, the report said. The situation was equally grim for South Asian maids in the United Arab Emirates, where close to one million Indians work, the State Department said.