Thank you for joining me today. I think it’s fair to say that the discussion you’re going to hear raises at least as many questions as it answers. We’re talking about domestic abuse and women who leave Nepal to work abroad. Labour migration is a huge part of the country’s economy and, as I think this episode reveals, it has a major impact on many other aspects of life here. Earlier this century the money that migrant workers sent home accounted for close to 1/3 of Nepal’s entire economy; today it is closer to a quarter – still a major chunk of what keeps this country going.
Today I’m speaking with Dr Arjun Kharel, assistant professor of sociology at Tribhuvan University and a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility. He and co-author Amrita Gurung recently published a paper that looks at spousal abuse experienced by 148 Nepali women who worked in various countries overseas. Much has been reported about women migrant workers who are abused in their working countries but this research focuses on domestic abuse faced by women in Nepal before and after they worked overseas, mostly in Persian Gulf countries or Malaysia. These are – aside from Nepal’s neighbour India – the main destination countries for Nepali workers, women and men.
One of the main findings of the research, which surprised the academics, is that women migrant workers did not face higher levels of abuse after they returned home. Researchers expected that because there is such a stigma about women who go abroad alone, specifically that they will hook up with other men that female migrants would be ‘punished’ after returning home. Another surprising finding was that the women surveyed believed that it was OK for men to beat women in certain circumstances, for example if they were not caring for children properly. In that sense, their opinions matched those of Nepali women in general, whereas researchers thought that exposure to another culture might affect the migrants’ thinking about abuse.
Other questions that I think the research raises include: how many Nepali women who leave for overseas work are abused and how big a factor is that abuse in their decision to leave? Arjun does have answers based on his research, as you’ll hear, but I think this needs to be examined further. Also, why isn’t more being done to prevent domestic abuse in general, which in turn might reduce the number of women who feel they have to leave the country?
I could go on, but instead please listen now to my chat with Dr Arjun Kharel to learn more.
Research paper — Women's Participation in Foreign Labour Migration and Spousal Violence: A Study on Returnee Women Migrant Workers in Nepal
Our earlier episode – The Labour Migration Trap
Nepal Now social links
Thanks as always to Nikunja Nepal for advice and inspiration.
Music: amaretto needs ice ... by urmymuse (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/urmymuse/57996 Ft: Apoxode
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