The Immigration Department proposed a discriminatory amendment in working procedure to restrict women under 40 years of age from travelling alone while undertaking a visit visa. With the proposal, women travellers on visit visas will be requiring travel insurance of at least Rs1.5 million, a voucher/receipt as evidence for currency exchange and women under 40 travelling solo for the first time to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries or Africa will be required to obtain permission from family members and the local ward.
The Department of Immigration mentioned that the amendment was proposed due to the rise in cases of human trafficking, exploitation of Nepali women abroad, difficulties in rescue and treatment among others. The Department of Immigration later issued a clarification that no decision has been made and women will be requiring paperwork only when travelling to “high risk” countries, while women going abroad for the first time will be requested to provide details about their residence and point of contact.
This is not the first time such discriminatory measures had been issued under the pretence of protecting women going abroad for employment. In the last three decades, the Government of Nepal has issued multiple policies that discriminate against women.
The government, in order to protect its citizens, should not restrict its citizens’ freedom of mobility. Rather than restricting women from travelling to “not so safe” countries our government should find and provide access to countries that are safe and provide better economic opportunities.
While social dynamics and legal procedures have allowed men to migrate for work, women have traditionally been discouraged from doing so due to social norms and corresponding legal arrangements. In 2018/19, 91.3% of the work permits were issued for male. Despite the fact that men make up the majority of migrant workers, the number of women travelling from Nepal to work in these countries has risen in recent decades. Despite the prohibitions and restrictions, women continued to pursue employment in other countries through a number of outlets, some of which are illegal. As a result of which, many choose to go abroad via India because of the convenience of an open border thus, leaving them more vulnerable to trafficking.
The government has tried to address this issue by increasing the number of destinations for our migrant workers. Cyprus, Jordan, Maldives, Malta, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Japan are the destinations our government is eyeing to open access through bilateral dialogues. However, significant results have not been achieved through such dialogues and the countries our migrant workers prefer mostly remains the same.
According to the Migration Report, 2020 published by the ministry of labour, employment and social security, the countries that women travelled for employment are listed below:
Rather than focusing on protecting women and proposing such absurd policies, the government should ease up the process of gaining permits so that women may choose to visit safer countries. In order to avoid the situations mentioned by the officials, the government may rather educate women travellers of the risk they may face in a foreign country along with the appropriate measures to be taken when necessary. Likewise, the government must initiate actions on making its diplomatic missions well-equipped for situations when a citizen of the country is in need of dire help.