Nepal lifts ban on its women working in the Gulf

Sri Lankan domestic workers being trained before leaving for the Middle East (photo credit:Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai/Human Rights Watch) Campaign groups say domestic workers from South Asia are often abused by their employers in the Gulf

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Nepal's employment ministry has lifted a ban on the country's women going to Gulf countries to work and introduced new rules designed to protect them.

The ban has been in force since 1998, when a Nepalese domestic worker who had been abused in Kuwait, committed suicide, creating a national scandal.

Authorities barred women from travelling to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

But many continue to travel to these countries to escape Nepal's poverty.

Campaigners say most travel via India to avoid detection.

"Before they can recruit workers, employers will have to assure us they will provide insurance, accommodation, security and a basic wage," news agency AFP quoted employment ministry spokesman Purnachandra Bhattarai as saying.

The guarantees would be monitored by Nepalese embassies, who would be responsible for defining a minimum wage for each country, Mr Bhattarai added.

An estimated two million poor women from countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal work in the wealthy Gulf countries.

Many often face mistreatment and abuse at the hand of their employers.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch says that many domestic workers are denied food or medical care and sometimes detained against their will. They have few avenues to make complaints or obtain shelter.

The group says that in 2009 domestic workers in Kuwait filed over 10,000 complaints about their treatment with their embassies.

The Kuwaiti government, however, denies any widespread abuse is taking place.

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