I have known about this problem of Ghanaian women seeking the proverbial greener pastures in the Middle-East, or the Arabo-Islamic world, in general, who often meet with wanton exploitation and sexual abuse for quite some time now. This is primarily because the human rights protection laws in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan are heavily skewed against the protection of women. Not being a Muslim by faith, as a migrant worker in many of the predominantly Muslim Middle-Eastern countries could further complicate an already civically tentative situation for the Ghanaian and Black-African woman in general.
Nevertheless, Mr. John Kwame Quayeson’s call for the government to prohibit Ghanaian women under 30 years old from seeking employment opportunities in the Middle-East, egregiously violates the equal rights protection provisions guaranteed our women by Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution. The fact of the matter is that ours is a Democratic Culture in the practical sense of the term (See “Prohibit Women Under 30 from Going to [the] Middle-East – Lawyer Proposes” MyJoyOnline.com / Modernghana.com 5/21/17). What needs to be done to drastically reduce the unacceptably high incidence of abuse and wanton exploitation of our women, is for officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to thoroughly investigate and ensure that prospective women travelers to the Middle-East have the necessary qualifications that match any employment opportunities available to them.
The presence and activities of these women migrants also need to be closely monitored by the embassies and high commissions of Ghana in these countries. But even more significantly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to work hand-in-glove with the diplomatic establishments of the Middle-Eastern countries to ensure that Ghanaians resident and gainfully employed in the Arabo-Islamic world are afforded the requisite protections demanded by International Law. Lawyer Quayeson ought not to make the unpardonable mistake of facilely assuming that just because far more women who return from these countries complain about wanton labor exploitation than our menfolk, necessarily means that Ghanaian male migrants to these Middle-Eastern countries are having a relatively more comfortable deal or treatment. Nothing could be farther from the truth and reality on the ground.
Historically and culturally, men are far less likely to complain publicly about abuse and wanton exploitation, unless these oppressive conditions rise to levels that are practically unbearable. Oftentimes, the situation we have here has to do with prospective women migrants, for the most part and, men, too, who do not possess adequate academic and professional skills to enable them to be gainfully employed in professions that traditionally come with remarkable respectability, such as teaching, medical practice and such allied health professions as pharmacy, nursing and the various sub-disciplines of the paramedical profession. Thus, a woman with very little fetching professional skills, for example, is far more likely to be sexually exploited than one who is highly skilled. Age often has little to do with the extent to which one gets abused and/or exploited in these countries.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York