Sri Lankan women eyeing Gulf ordered to take contraceptives

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Colombo, April 6 (IANS) Sri Lankan women who take up domestic work in the Middle East were being ordered by recruitment agents to take contraceptives before leaving, a media report said on Friday.

Six recruiters licensed by the Sri Lankan government said they could provide an employer with a “three-month guarantee” that a maid would not become pregnant, the Guardian reported.

An agent from Gulf Jobs in Colombo said: “Before we can send a maid, there is a medical check-up by the government and no one can influence that. But once the medical test is done … there is a device we can give in them. If you want it, we can arrange it.”

While no women were prepared to speak openly about being forced to take contraceptives, the Guardian found that many recruitment agencies make migrant workers take Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive that lasts for three months.

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Sri Lanka’s civil war, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of men, has left many Tamil women as the sole breadwinners for their families.

Rahini Bhaskaran, coordinator of Migrants Network, a rights organisation, said women were so desperate for work that they complied unquestioningly with the stipulations of recruiters.

“Most women don’t know what the injections are for. They are not told anything about it” she said.

Bhaskaran believes the contraceptive serves a double purpose: covering up potential sexual assaults by recruitment agents and serving as a guarantee to prospective employers in the Gulf that workers will not get pregnant.

Currently, there are 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone and recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 foreign women a month to keep up with demand, according to official data.

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