UK government should lead by example on rights of domestic workers

By agency reporter
July 16, 2013

Christian Aid has welcomed a new UK aid funded programme to tackle the exploitation of domestic workers in South Asia and the Middle East, and says the UK government should back its commitment by supporting an international convention aimed at tackling that exploitation.

A new ‘Work in Freedom’ programme to fight the trafficking of women and girls from South Asia is launched today by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Many women who are trafficked from countries such as India and Bangladesh find themselves facing coercion and exploitation as domestic workers in the Middle East or other Asian countries. Others endure forced-labour type conditions in the garment and other industries.

The programme will target known trafficking routes, primarily where women and girls from Bangladesh, India and Nepal are trafficked within South Asia and to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon with new initiatives. These include training government officials, providing women at risk of trafficking with training, information and support to protect themselves against exploitation and deliver skills to help them secure a legal contract and decent wage.

Oliver Pearce, Christian Aid's’ Middle East Programme Manager, said: "Exploitative practices persist because of a lack of legislation, a lack of enforcement of the laws that do exist, and a lack of recognition of people’s rights, especially poor women.

"We are very pleased the UK Government is backing the new programme. We urge it to pursue and support systemic changes within and between countries. This includes applying international labour standards.

"Two years ago the ILO adopted a new convention, Convention 189, for domestic workers. The UK was one of only eight governments that abstained in the vote.

"If the new programme is to have real impact, the UK must use its influence to press for the convention’s ratification and implementation in Asian and Middle East countries. It can only do this through leading by example.

"It must change its policy and endorse the convention itself, which would provide migrant domestic workers in the UK with protections equivalent to other workers."

Christian Aid continues to work with partner organisations worldwide to press governments and employers to improve laws and practices to make domestic work as valued as any other, and for domestic workers to be treated fairly.


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