Nepal has banned women under the age of 30 from working as housemaids in the Gulf amid growing concerns about human right abuses. However, rights groups in Nepal have argued that the age-specific bar violates women's rights to equality.
Domestic workers in most Gulf countries fall under the kafala system, which means that their right to remain in the country is linked to their employer's sponsorship. Changing jobs is difficult if not impossible, and most workers must hand their passports over to employers.
An estimated 200,000 Nepalis women work in the Gulf without official documentation. Kathmandu has recently been at the centre of a racket involving the sale of fake passport to migrant workers, many of them young women travelling to the Gulf to work as housemaids. None of the Gulf states have signed ILO conventions on migrant labour.
“We decided to put age bar because mature women can better protect themselves. Other South Asian countries also have similar provision. The Gulf countries themselves suggested to have such provision,” Kumar Belbase, Minister of Labour and Employment. Bal Bahadur Tamang, President, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, told The Himalayan Times.
However, the ban has met with opposition from some groups. Saru Joshi, Programme Specialist, UN Women, said:
"The more prudent step will be to strengthen security network, to offer choices, make the workers aware of the risks, strengthen NRN associations and adopt integrated approach.”
Most Nepali women working in the Gulf are thought to be under the age of 25.
The Nepali Embassy in Abu Dhabi claimed this week that it had not heard anything about the legislation, according to reports in The Khaleej Times.