Bonded labour in Oman?
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has just released a 68-page report titled "I was sold" that outlines the near-slavery conditions for migrant domestic workers in Oman. We are concerned by the report because our female workers are amongst those who are reportedly being abused and exploited by the employers. The forms of abuse range from the lack of freedom to change jobs, underpaid for work done, physical assault and inhumane working conditions that they have to put up with. Forced labour and trafficking of workers; denial of pay and food are all part-and-parcel of female workers' existence while working as domestic workers in the Sultanate.
Some 130,000 female domestic help work in the country and although there are no exact numbers available as to how many of them are Bangladeshi, we find these conditions to be subhuman, totally illegal and unacceptable. Even if a portion of what has been mentioned in the report is true, we are looking at systematic repression of basic human rights here. Most of these workers get employment there privately or individually which makes it that much more difficult to keep track of them. And that gives rise to the problem assessing employers.
The government should firstly stop such private employment of women abroad and should rethink its policy of allowing female workers to work as domestic help in countries that do not abide by workers' safety policies. Unless we can protect our expatriate workers, especially women, such abuses will continue. We urge the government to take up the issue with the government of Oman immediately.