Nepali Times
"Even slaves are treated better"


Shanti Lama from Lalitpur (left) was raped by a recruiter who promised her a good job in Kuwait if she kept quiet. Nine months later, she was sent back by her employers when she gave birth to a baby girl.

ē Prema Rana of Surkhet was locked up for five years in her employer's house in Lebanon, she returned without being paid. She says she was tricked by a recruiter named Sher Bahadur Lama.

ē Ganga Sunar of Baglung was sent to Saudi Arabia by her recruiter on a forged passport. She committed suicide while there.

ē Binita Thapa of Chitwan returned mentally disturbed from Lebanon. Her husband is in debt trying to get her treatment.

These are only some of the many heart-wrenching stories of thousands of Nepali women who are sexually abused, physically tortured and even murdered by their Nepali recruiters and employers in the Gulf.

Last month, six women were rescued from a building in Kathmandu where an agent had kept them locked up after the husband of one of the victims reported her as missing.

Until 2007, Nepali women were being trafficked in large numbers because going to the Gulf for employment was banned by the government. Purna Chandra Bhattarai, the director general of the Foreign Employment Department, admits that the state lifted the ban and legalised individual contracts for domestic workers after growing pressure from the media and civil society. But sending workers abroad without legal protection and proper verification of employers, exposes the women to exploitation and abuse in Nepal itself.

"Making sure that your citizens are safe and well protected should be a priority for any country, but the Nepali government legalised individual contracts, without putting in necessary safeguards," says Bal Bahadur Tamang, chairman of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies. The multi-million dollar migrant labour sector, the largest contributor to the country's GDP, however, seems more important to the government than its expendable population.

In June last year, the Kuwait government decided to drop immigration charges against all illegal workers, after which 1,300 Nepali domestic workers contacted the Nepal Embassy there, requesting to be rescued. At least 15 women had children born after they were raped by employers.

The risk for Nepali women working in Gulf countries is so serious that only a handful manage to get out alive and without being abused. Last year, Durga Chunar of Gorkha was beaten to near death by her employer in Kuwait. She was rescued by the police and sent back to Nepal after receiving treatment for a month at the embassy.

"I am lucky to be alive. But I want to tell my Nepali sisters and brothers to not go to that country," Chunar told us, weeping.

Others are not so lucky. Between 2008 and 2010, 18 Nepali women committed suicide in Lebanon of which 12 had gone through recognised recruitment agencies.

Poor, illiterate women are the most vulnerable because they have no idea about the 'Kafala' system practiced in most Gulf countries according to which workers cannot quit or choose their employers. Passports and legal documents are deposited with employers, leaving them at their mercy.

Manju Gurung of Pourakhi, an organisation set up by returned women migrant workers themselves, says the lack of transparency and accountability of the contract system are responsible for the exploitation of domestic workers. "When a woman directly enters into a contract with her foreign employer, it becomes difficult to legally identify or implicate the Nepali recruiters," she explains.

According to a UN report, at least 111 Nepali women are trapped in various jails across the Middle East, 88 have committed suicide, and 31 remain unaccounted for. Out of the 2,820 migrants rescued from these countries, 415 suffer psychological trauma, 86 were raped, and 32 have returned with babies.

Unless the government is serious about enforcing the provisions of the Foreign Employment Act and creates a safety net for migrant workers, these statistics and the lives of countless Nepali women will only get worse.

The longer version of this article can be accessed at

See also:
To hell and back, by Rubeena Mahato

Womanpower, by Rubeena Mahato

"They are all bad"

I am from Damauli. I do not know how to read or write, so when my sister called from Saudi Arabia and said the job was easy and paid her well, I decided to go. I asked the local agent in my village and with the help of her brother in India, I went to Saudi Arabia. I was promised $500 per month, but after working for nine months, they only gave me four months salary. They tortured me and wouldn't give me food for days. Often, the wife would tell her husband to beat me but luckily he did not listen to her. I advise Nepali women not to go to Saudi Arabia. There are no good or bad households in Saudi Arabia, they are all bad.

Lila Pariyar was rescued by Paurakhi in February 2012.

Maids in the Gulf
Qatar 669
Saudi Arabia 133
UAE 3,236
Bahrain 357
Kuwait 8,646
Oman 273
Lebanon 205
Israel 472

(There are an additional 1,311 in Malaysia and 4,000 in Hong Kong)

1. Shyam

If Nepalese were in a position of the Gulf citizen, they could have done even more. All the agents (Nepali) are human traffickers. The agents knew already the situation over there, but still sending women with a false hope and aspiration...


2. ganesh gurung
I am sorry for all victims. However, I have noticed a certain pattern in your reports published in your esteemed newspaper. The names of victims are normally changed to hide their identitiy and protect their honor. Why then is not the same courtesy extended to victims of ethnic background? Why are their whole names and castes published? But why  it is normally not so when it contains the names of Bahuns?

3. who cares
what can we do?

only agents for wrong cause like those who demand nepali citizenship to indians get financed. sorry, victims like you are of no use in realizing the goal of white christains.

when arabs turn into enemy (in theory) of white christains, then your supporters/agents will be financed. till then have patience. 

4. who cares
and this kind of suffering will increase in days to follow since we be fighting with one another (ethnic civil war) rather than fight the real fight together. 

ethnic warlord already has become karodpati, i saw one young tharu ethnicity guy with sunglasses, colorful shirt, looked really jhilke giving violent speech on TV.  

5. SL
I have my own personal experience of witnessing lots of nepali men & women who were working in gulf countries, & were mentally disturbed & were sent back from company or called back by family & out of those women were worst case. I actually don't know how these manpower agencies are operating & how the government is regulating everything, but  most women who go there are actually those who are either socially rejected, widowed, having bad relationship with family or in laws, husbands who are drunk & irresponsible, having many children to look after & above all from poor economic & educational background so they don't have much options left.
So i think the task to solve this sort of problem really has to be initiated from within our country itself giving attention to each & every factors responsible.

6. Anil
People who go to Gulf countries very well know the situation there. If have gone there with their own will or volition, then the other tax payer has no business to rescue them. I am fed up of listening this that government should rescue, government should spend tax payers money to rescue ......

Be grown up, if you have signed up for the risky job, then you have to bear the consequences. Anyway, I am not against helping people who are in mess, I think it should be done via foundation or by private group of people, not from the state treasure because they didn't take permission from other tax payers to go abroad and earn their living or be in mess.

Every person in this world knows that Gulf countries are like hell, women are not treated like human being, they don't even treat their own women as human being.....

7. Abhishek Bhandari

I cannot imagine the circumstances that would force so many of our women to go there knowing these stories for years. We can continue blaming, but until there are alternatives, people will risk all they can, to try and earn a living that will better their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

We need to provide alternatives, we need real leaders to make choices that will provide these options. I blame all of us for the harm these women have gone through, we have atleast done nothing and at most adided in making Nepal what it is today.

8. yam gurung
It is very unfortunate and sad to say if we look back to Gurkha recruitment especially the Nepal govt and manpowers have always used its citizens as an diplomacy currency in the international markets and the netaji and the manpowers are getting richers and fatters and the innconect citizens are facing misrey and pains across the globe.

9. G Wanem


.....we need real leaders to make choices that will provide these options.

"Real leaders in Nepal"..... never heard of it in my 60 years of existence!!  They're all the same, in one way or the other - they're chameleons. 

Nepal is digging its own grave, epitaph "Long Live Democracy".  Neither Nepalis nor their leaders understand what democracy means - translated into simple English it means "greed".  Ho ki hoina?


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)