Indian Government restricts women from migrating for domestic work

29 May 2007

In a worrying move, the Indian Government announced plans to prohibit women under 30 from migrating to work as domestics in an effort to tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The ban will apply to women seeking domestic work in 17 countries in Africa, the Gulf and Southeast Asia. Minister for Women and Children Renuka Chowdhury earlier this month said the ban was in response to repeated cases of migrant domestic workers in these countries being sexually exploited.

Trafficking women into domestic work is a significant problem. They are promised good work and pay which they cannot find at home, but on their arrival they are forced to work long hours, often up to seven days a week without holidays for little or no pay. They have to carry out all of the household chores, have no privacy and their employers keep their passports to prevent them from leaving.

Rather than tackling trafficking and providing protection from exploitation, this measure will only penalise the women concerned. By not addressing the poverty and lack of opportunity that pushes women to look for work abroad and removing legitimate means for them to migrate for work as domestics, they will become even more vulnerable to traffickers. It is vital the Indian Government takes effective steps to penalise traffickers and not the people who are vulnerable to this abuse.