‘The woman left for Saudi Arabia in November 2019 and had been tortured regularly since then’
A female expatriate has returned to Bangladesh with her six-month-old child after being allegedly abused and raped by her employer in Saudi Arabia.
The 32-year-old woman, who landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Tuesday, told the airport authorities that her former employer was the father of her child.
The woman was later taken to the shelter of Brac Learning Centre in the capital’s Ashkona, said Brac Migration program chief Shariful Hasan.
According to the Brac official, the woman left the country for Saudi Arabia in November 2019 and had been tortured regularly since then. “At one point, her former employer sent her to jail after she became pregnant; she gave birth to a baby boy in prison.”
She hailed from Brahmanbaria and her family had yet to be informed about the situation, Shariful Hasan said.
The woman had informed the security officials about her circumstances, following which she was handed over to the Brac Migration authorities.
Shariful Hasan told Dhaka Tribune: “This is extremely unfortunate, and as the head of this program, I am frequently witnessing such incidents with great pain.
“If you could just take a look at the baby, you would understand who his father could be. Even so, our embassy can file a case and arrange a DNA test to identify the father. The woman was tortured for days yet she was the one who had to spend time in jail. Our authorities did nothing other than send her back [to Bangladesh].”
“Owing to social stigma, the woman is unwilling to return home right away. We are trying to comfort her as much as we can, and we will help her contact her family only when she wants us to do so,” said the Brac Migration program head.
Meanwhile, when asked about the matter, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said he was not aware of the matter.
“Millions of our female migrant workers work in Saudi Arabia … It is not possible for me to keep tabs on every one of them,” he said.
However, the minister said it was possible to take legal action in such cases if the victim wanted.
“Our workers can always seek legal help if they are tortured. In such cases, they can stay in our shelter houses in the respective countries and go for legal action while staying in that country. However, they have to be the ones to file the cases and our embassies will assist them. But that avenue is closed once the victim returns home,” Dr Momen explained.
“We won three cases last year in Saudi Arabia, and in one of them, an employer was executed when one of our female migrant workers died after being tortured. Her family and two other victims received a large sum as compensation,” he said.
Several similar cases
Brac official Shariful Hasan said he had seen 12 such cases to date.
“We tried to stand by their side. But we need to raise our voices and the policymakers should play a larger role in preventing such incidents from occurring in future,” he remarked.
According to the Brac Migration program’s data, earlier on April 2, an expatriate worker returned to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia and left her eight-month-old at the Dhaka airport.
On March 26, a woman hailing from Narsingdi’s Belabo upazila returned home from Saudi Arabia with a child after losing her mental balance.
On February 24, another domestic worker was forced to return to Bangladesh from Oman with her four-month-old child. Upon arriving at the airport, she told Armed Police Battalion officials that the father of her child was an Omani citizen, and that she had been handed over to Oman police when she became pregnant. The child was born at a deportation camp there.
In a similar incident on December 16 last year, a female migrant worker was forced to return home from Oman with her three-month-old baby.