Women’s rights activists put forth these demands following a human chain on Sunday in front of the National Press Club under the banner of 'Progressive Women’s Organizations.'
An alliance of seven left-leaning women’s rights organizations demanded the security of expatriate female workers, with protection from killing, rape, and repression of female Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Women’s rights activists put forth these demands following a human chain on Sunday in front of the National Press Club under the banner of "Progressive Women’s Organizations."
Speakers from the human chain asked the government to play an active role in freeing women from repression abroad and also demanded a stop to sending female workers to the KSA.
The movement gained momentum after the return of Sumi Akter, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in the KSA, whose video seeking help to escape from her employer’s abuse spread across social media. She brought back horrific stories of abuse which, in turn, stirred up the conversation on the security of female migrant workers.
According to UNB, apart from Sumi, 86 other Bangladeshis returned home from the KSA on November 16 on a separate flight, putting the number of deportees at 1,647 in the last two weeks.
Furthermore, prominent women’s rights organization Naripokkho issued a statement on Saturday criticizing Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen's speech on female migrant workers, saying every instance of death is significant and the government has to make sure that no one faces any kind of physical assault and harassment when working abroad.
In a press briefing held on November 14, the foreign minister said: "Only 53 female workers died out of 220,000 female workers currently working in the KSA. The majority of the female workers abroad are somehow managing well with a small percentage of them facing problems."
At the human chain demonstration on Sunday, Shampa Basu, general secretary of Samajtantrik Mahila Forum said: “KSA came to an agreement with Bangladesh after it stopped sending female workers to Indonesia and the Philippines in 2015. But our female workers are [still] being repressed in that country.
“Those who are going to work in the country cannot understand how to cope due to their simplicity. Government organizations do not help them. In the last 10 months, 113 dead bodies have not returned to our country which shows the clear negligence of concerned departments,” she added.
Moreover, she condemned the foreign minister's remarks regarding the return of 53 dead bodies being an insignificant number, adding that “the poor are always neglected in the country.”
CPB Women’s Cell Convener, Laxmi Chakrabortee said: “Marginalized women who are going abroad to work, have to illegally pay money to brokers. In Middle Eastern countries, women are trying to commit suicide as a result of the injustice done to them. Many of them are killed and their bodies are sent [back] to the country after a long time.”
She demanded justice for these killings.
Niti Chakma, central leader of the Hill Women’s Federation said women working abroad were adding to the economic growth and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Bangladesh.
She said: “We are still overlooking their issues and the ruling government has failed to ensure their security, although the government is not acknowledging that.”
The alliance placed a memorandum with a nine point demand addressed to the foreign minister as well, after the post human chain procession.
The alliance was formed in late 2017 during the 100 year commemoration of the Russian revolution which was joined by the Hill Women’s Federation recently.
The other six organizations were already in the alliance as their mother organizations were allied under a progressive coalition, including the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) Women’s Cell, Socialist Women’s Forum, Sramajibi Nari Maitree, Bangladesh Nari Mukti Kendra, Nari Sanghati, and Biplobi Nari Forum.