New Delhi: There seems to be no end to a woman's miseries, especially if she is uneducated and poor.
The conclusion was drawn after a study undertaken by the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research (CSR) revealed that Indian women below 30 were forced to seek a route to West Asia to work as housemaids and nurses.
Poverty, unemployment and landlessness are pushing larger number of women to migrate to different countries using illegal channels such as travel agents, recruitment agents and middlemen. And the favoured destinations for migration are the Middle East countries.
A considerable number of these women are in their 20s despite the fact that there is a bar on migration abroad for women below the age of 30.
Based on the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial meet held in 2007 and intervention of the Emigration Section of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), certain actions were taken by the Indian government. These included implementation of the policy measures for the protection and welfare of women immigrants.
Ranjana Kumari, President of CSR, said: "The age restriction of 30 years was made mandatory for all women immigrating on ECR (Emigration Check Required) passports irrespective of the nature and category of employment.
"Also, an important aspect to be implemented was that the employment contract should be between the worker and the employer directly and not with the recruiting agent. But irrespective of the directives, immigration continues in an illegal and clandestine manner."
Tragically, the sufferers of this lawlessness are women, who are compelled to leave their families behind in the hope of providing them a better future. But unfortunately, they end up distressed and traumatised."
Gulf News managed to speak to one such woman, Rekha (not her real name), who narrated her experience on condition of anonymity.
Defenceless and vulnerable, Rekha looks into oblivion when asked why she needed to leave the secure environs of home and venture into the unknown.
Was she aware of the bar on migration abroad for women below the age of 30? Did she get someone to alter her date of birth in the certificate? Did she fall prey to middlemen? What was the real scenario that awaited her in the country of employment?
The questions drew a blank stare.
Only on realising that she could make a difference and perhaps save others, 27-year-old Rekha agreed to talk.
Rekha revealed: "I have suffered in life due to lack of education. My husband abandoned me after I gave birth to a girl child. Left with no choice, I went back to my parent's house, but suffered humiliation at the hands of my brother, who always cursed my daughter."
Rekha worked as a housemaid for a family in south Delhi. She hesitantly agreed to tag along with her employers who relocated to Saudi Arabia.
"My only aim was to send my daughter to an English-medium school and give her good education, so that she would not have to suffer my fate," Rekha said.
Her employers managed to get her a passport and promised her a monthly salary of Rs.25,000 (Dh1,821). But on reaching Saudi Arabia, Rekha found herself confined to home and was not paid the salary she was promised to get.
After two months, she told her employers that she wanted to return to India, but they refused to give her passport back. They also threatened to report her to the authorities. Fearing she would be put behind the bars, Rekha suffered silently for six months.
Finally, with the help of some kind local women, she managed to free herself from the clutches of her Indian employers and returned to Delhi.
Rekha is back to square one. Though she still has dreams for her daughter, her hopes are dead.
A CSR official said: "There are numerous Rekhas enduring such ordeal. The law has not been followed and the requirements that exist, do not match with the portfolio of the women who are migrating. They are not only semi-skilled, but there is also the fudging of documents and perhaps many are not landing in the jobs they are migrating for. There is a huge mismatch of what is promised and what they actually get."
Stating that there were several unofficial channels in the form of recruiting agents, who were operating illegally, she wondered how else could one explain semi-skilled nurses being sent as trained nurses? "This also means putting the lives of people in danger," she said.
"The Indian government should step in and ensure that in every embassy abroad a cell is established for women migrants, which can be approached for help and assistance," she added.
Manasi Mishra, head of the Research and Knowledge Department of CSR, said: "The women are in high demand and lured by middlemen. They are better educated with more than 45 per cent of them completing their higher secondary education in comparison with only 18 per cent of the men."
CSR uncovered the socio-economic background of migrant families, impact on the families left behind and the condition to which the migrants were subjected to in destination countries.
The findings revealed that in many cases the decision to go abroad for employment was taken not by the women themselves but by their husbands and families.
And almost all migrated because of monetary problems at home. This included better education for children and to look after dependant parents. The consequences in most cases were harsh and in several cases they were treated almost like slaves.
- The Centre for Social Research has sought some policy recommendations. It suggests that the government should take initiatives to send migrants through proper channel, reduce expenditure incurred for migration and provide loans at low interests or interest free.
- Provide skill development training to potential migrants before they go abroad.
- Take necessary measures to stop physical torture against migrants and take initiatives to bring back women migrants who are in the most vulnerable situations without support and cooperation.
- There is a bar on migration abroad for Indian women below the ageof 30.
- The causes behind the migration of women are poverty, relocation of the employer, divorce/separation or death of husband or education of children.
- Women have to spend far less money than men to migrate. While 46 per cent women migrants spend less than Rs.50,000 only 21 per cent men are able to go abroad with such little costs.
- They predominantly work as housemaids and nurses.