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March 28, 2023

Tears of Sri Lankan women in the desert – Azgar Nuhman

Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by Desman Chathuranga

At present, the most earned foreign exchange of our country is borne by the women engaged in slave domestic work in the Middle East region. The pathetic story of these women who went to look for a meager exchange for the country consists of many women who died outside the law after being thrown from the upper floors, as well as Rizana Nafeek who was beheaded by the Arab law before turning 18.

When our country bring bulletproof cars for the politicians? Privileged, honorable, educated intelligent channeling doctor and engineers bring B.M.W’s for their families, the tear gases bought to control the protests, Do you believe that import of Artilleries and guns to celebrate the proud independence day on February 4th are brought from these pittance of riyals and dinars earned by these poor women who risk their lives in the gulf. Not even a breath of human rights touch these damsels, the underprivileged Sri Lankan woman has to search for gold in a non-cultural desert that believes that women are nothing more than a chunk of flesh created by God to please men because however the future she don’t have even a present in this country.

Another tragedy here is that the people living in the dense tribal culture of our country look at the women of their own families who return from domestic work in the Middle East as dirty and sinful animals who have sold their bodies to the Arabs.

These women who go to the Middle East for this domestic slave labor earn a huge amount of foreign exchange for the Sri Lankan government every year. Due to the difficult life they spend there, the Sri Lankan government does not spend even the insurance money taken before departure to bring back at least the bodies of those who suddenly die there. Even the poor dependants of those unprivileged domestic workers are not in a strong position to pressure the government to bring back the bodies of those who died in the gulf.

By now, the smuggling of women to the Middle East has become a vicious human trafficking to human trafficking racket. Brokers who find women from places where people live very hard lives such as plantations get commission from the job agency. Next, the agency workers take a large part of the salaries paid for these women from the place they work before they start. Finally these women are left like orphans in an unknown country.

Beyond that she works like a slave for nearly twenty hours for a day without any break, partner and protection. At the end, even if she managed to save her life, get rid of the work and come back to her
country for a vacation there is nothing much to bring back because the biggest part was exploited by agencies, brokers and officials.

In a country where there are political elites who go to the parliament every five years to get a heavy pension, these helpless women will never get pension justice and will never get it.We see countless women who came to Sri Lanka from Middle Eastern as maids for a meager salary, spend their whole lives working in cleaning services without retirement protection.

The most dangerous and tragic part of this story is the cynical news heard in the media that foreign service officers works at the gulf embassies and agency workers who are paid by the government to provide shelter to these women are selling these women as prostitutes.

Those who are appointed as ambassadors from our country to other countries are sent as a privilege to visit and enjoy the country. (In the past Singers who scratch politicians back are sent as ambassadors) They go there and get millions of salaries and enjoy their families at the expense of the government. Not only do they not look into these issues, but they are also willingly or complicit in these scams.

Also, even though the super women who speak very highly about women’s rights in our country, holding up the women’s demand billboards on the side of the road in Colombo Fort with red lipsticks and expensive sarees do not stand up for these real tragedies. The factual truth is, it is these plantation underage children kept at their houses of those who talk about women rights for domestic work without wages but given only food.

The sending of women to the Middle East for domestic work began under the open economic policy of 1977. It was to remedy the severe foreign exchange deficit the country was facing due to the wrong domestic economic strategies of the government of Sirimavo and the leftists. During the period, women who went to the Middle East could earn some decent income in difficult labor conditions more than today.

But later, with the arrival of women workers from extreme poverty countries such as Indonesia and Philippines the salary scale has drastically decreased. The governments that came to power should have
developed the language skills and equipment usage skills to the point that these domestic workers could be sent as domestic profession in other developed countries to find employment opportunities and entered into bilateral agreements with those countries to increase the foreign revenue.

At least those diplomatic officers in the foreign service looked for such job opportunities at least, instead the government in power had given opportunities in the foreign service to their favorite actors, artists and singers who do not know what is foreign service but based on nepotism.It is sad to note from 1977 until now no development and reforms has taken place in this sector but stagnated at one place.

Azgar Nuhman

Freelance journalist and a sufi author