03/13/2014, 00.00
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Farm labourers, migrants and factory workers: women’s rights denied in Sri Lanka

by Melani Manel Perera
The Mothers and Daughters of Lanka (MoU) denounce, social, economic and political discrimination suffered by female workers. Women represent an important source of income, but the government does not recognize their equal rights.

Colombo (AsiaNews ) - Female migrants, tea plantations farmers, labourers: in Sri Lanka these categories "suffer discrimination at an economic, political and social level, despite the fact they contribute actively to the development of the nation", denounces The Mothers and Daughters of Lanka ( MoU ), which unites women of different social backgrounds. "How can a country claim to be the new 'Wonder of Asia ' - MoU representatives tell AsiaNews - when it does not protect the rights, dignity and equality of women?".

Among these women, migrant women are the ones who suffer the most abuse. "The only reason they decide to migrate as domestic workers - Scholastica Silva tells AsiaNews - is that they can not make ends meet. Years ago this was because the economy was in crisis, but nothing has changed". The areas from which the majority of Sri Lankan women emigrate are respectively Kurunegala , Kandy and Colombo .

"Every year - she continues - these workers contribute to the national economy to the tune of 3 million dollars. They are the second source of income in the country. In return, they receive no help from the government, despite the wealth of evidence of abuse they encounter in the workplace. At least 98 % of them return to Sri Lanka with serious physical or psychological injuries. Some even return in a coffin". This was the case of Rizana Nafeek, the young maid executed in Saudi Arabia in 2013 - after six years on death row - charged with murder, a charge that was never proven.

Life is even difficult for labourers, especially those employed in textile factories. Padmini Weerasuriya tells AsiaNews: "They are expected to be only cheap and obedient workers. Neither the government nor the employers feel the need to give them a fair wage and rights". The situation is the same for many who work in tea plantations, a product for which Sri Lanka is renowned globally. "There are about 12 thousand plantation workers who do not receive any contributions - reports P. Logeshwari - and of these 80% are women".


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