Female Migrant Workers: The Case of Bangladesh

Women’s Rights and Empowerment:

           Under the Constitution in Bangladesh and all provisions in the CEDAW convention, there has been a constant improvement in women’s status, in both public and private. The government has been helpful throughout sponsors and encouragements; more women are accessing to leadership roles, and sometimes even occupy high positions in all organs of the state. There is a separate Ministry and a Directorate of Women’s Affairs in Bangladesh, working closely to improve women’s conditions.

Migrant Workers in Bangladesh:

             However, men and women have different experiences as migrant workers, most differences are because of the roles society assigns them and expects from them, in both countries of origin and destination.

           Gender should not be viewed only as a set of issues that must be applied separately to migration policy for men and women. Migration policy should also take into account the relations between women and men in sending and receiving countries.

            In Bangladesh female migrants make up a low proportion of labor migrants – until 2004, only 1% of Bangladeshi labor migrants were female. This number has increased to 5% in 2009, however, women still represent a small minority in relation to overall Bangladeshi migrant flows. This is due, in large part, to policies that have discouraged female labor migration, and societal attitudes that stigmatize those women who challenge traditional gender roles and migrate for work. Adding to this, policy changes in 2002 and 2006 have made it easier for low‐skilled women to migrate, resulting in steadily increasing numbers of female migrants.

         However, much work is necessary on the part of the government in order to facilitate safe migration for women through the development and implementation of gender-responsive and gender-sensitive policies. 



            Committee Experts and Co-Rapporteur for Bangladesh noted that it was still not clear how the Convention was being implemented in practice and, referring to female migrant workers, asked how many there were and what specific measures were in place to respond to their specific needs, in Bangladesh and abroad.

             Another Expert asked for additional information on the content of the strategy for migrant workers; the aid and support provided to female domestic workers who often suffered violations and abuse, including through the network of 61 diplomatic missions abroad; and the system in place to protect migrant children and children victims of economic exploitation.


Female Workers:

        “Most of the female workers from Bangladesh are employed as domestic help in the Middle East and they are not really safe,” we are urging the UN agencies concerned to step forward in ensuring safety for female migrant workers.

      In recent years, Bangladesh has increased the recruitment of female domestic workers to the Middle East, including signing bilateral agreements with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi women are in the Middle East, more than 100,000 of whom migrated for work from January to October 2016 alone, according to Bangladesh’s Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training. 

         Bangladesh was a member of the International Labor Organization and had ratified seven out of its eight core Conventions, and it needed to strengthen its capacity to adequately monitor the implementation of those treaties. In order to improve the situation of domestic workers,  Bangladesh was implementing the International Labor Organization programs in this regard and had adopted a policy in 2015 which provided a legal framework for the protection of domestic workers, who were mainly women and girls.

      Shelters had been set up in destination countries to provide protection to female domestic workers from abuse by employers, where they could seek refuge, while there were specialized civil society organizations in Bangladesh providing them with psychosocial support. Bangladesh worked in close cooperation with destination countries that used the kafala system, and several had improved their legal frameworks to increase the protection of migrant workers, for example in Qatar. 


         The phenomenon of female labor migration requires careful consideration by the Bangladeshi Government in the formation of its migration policies and the measures it implements to protect migrants throughout the migration process. In Bangladesh, women’s mobility is restricted by structural factors – social and economic conditions that are reinforced by discriminatory practices and legal instruments. Bangladeshi female migration is at its worse, and issues related to it should be taken up by the CEDAW Committee, in parallel with the state in order to secure gender-sensitive, gender-responsive protections for female labor migrants.

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