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25% female migrants face trouble in conjugal life on return: Study

Rashad Ahamad
28 Sep 2021 00:00:00 | Update: 28 Sep 2021 08:36:26
25% female migrants face trouble in conjugal life on return: Study
17.4 per cent of the returnee migrants are abused physically and 78.3 per cent mentally by neighbours, family and friends– Shamsul Haque Ripon

Female migrant workers who have returned home from different countries are facing an acute social and financial crisis in their home, according to a recent report.

The report finds that 25.2 per cent of the female returnees face crisis in their conjugal life, 14.7 per cent are divorced and 10.5 per cent are left by their husband.

Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) unveiled the report on Monday. The labour rights organisation conducted the study titled “Social and Economic Reintegration of the Returnee Female Migrant Workers: Success and Sorrows.”

Not only that, 17.4 per cent of the returnee remittance earners are abused physically and 78.3 per cent mentally by their neighbours, family and friends, finds the survey.

One out of every three returnees complained that they were treated as characterless after they returned home.

Asked about it, Begum Maqsura Noor, additional secretary to the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, told The Business Post they are aware of the social reintegration issue of female migrants, but they do not have any programme on this.

“We have reintegration programme for both male and female migrants focusing on financial matters. But there are no separate social reintegration programmes for female migrants,” she said.

Surveying 323 returnee female migrants in 12 upazilas across the country between July and December 2020 the survey found that the female workers were in financial crisis with 61 per cent of them having debt.

BILS Deputy Director Md Manirul Islam said 60 per cent of the returnee workers are living an unemployed life though they want jobs while 27 per cent of them are willing to go to overseas again for job.

The study was conducted among the female migrants who worked abroad for highest 10 years and came back home within the past 10 years.

To maintain their family 8.7 per cent worked as daylabour while 5.6 per cent run small business and 9 per cent work as domestic worker.

According to the rights activists, social and financial reintegration of the returnee migrants is a great challenge in Bangladesh as a public conception has grown among people that the women who go abroad for work might be physically abused.

They said such perception has grown in the society as a large number of female migrants who mainly worked overseas as domestic help came back home with various injury marks on their bodies before their contract tenure ended.

BILS report also unveiled that 61 of the returnees were the victim of forced labour abroad.

In April, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme, a non-government organisation, published a report on 262 female returnee migrants.

Of them, 65 per cent were found sexually exploited while 60 per cent physically tortured, 50 per cent subjected to forced labour, 37 per cent found to work unpaid in employers’ relatives’ house, 33 per cent mentally exploited and 16 per cent sexually abused.

Shariful Hasan, migration programme head, BRAC, said when such news spread among the mass people, it creates a social problem.

“People are found reluctant to accept the female workers when they come back home,” he said.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a rights organisation that works for migrants’ rights globally, said in its latest report during the pandemic, cases of abuse increased three-fold in the Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

47,991 migrant workers in the Gulf states were subjected to abuse since the emergence of Covid-19, a figure which is just the tip of the iceberg, said the report prepared between March 2010 and February 2021.

Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra BNSK Executive Director Sumaya Islam said the severe problem of reintegration of female workers was not addressed in the country. She urged the government to take pragmatic steps to change the social perception.

Rights activists also urged that government to take actions to stop the abuse of workers abroad.

Bangladesh is one of the top labour-sending countries and it has sent 13.2 million migrants including 9,35,499 females between 1991 and February 2021 officially, according to the BMET statistics.

Experts feel that the real number is much higher. Bangladesh has 99 per cent female migrants in eight middle-eastern countries, including the highest 39.59 per cent in Saudi Arabia.

BILS Executive Council members Shakil Akhter Chowdhury, Pulak Ranjan Dhar and Md Abdul Wahed and Deputy Directors Yousuf Al Mamun and Md Abdul Mazid, among others, were present at the report launching event at BILS office.