|CARAM Asia’s Statement on International Women's Day|
KUALA LUMPUR 8 March, 2008: On the occasion of the International Women's Day, CARAM Asia in line with the United Nation’s theme for “Investing in Women and Girls”, calls upon governments in both sending and receiving countries to increase resources in empowering migrant women who constitute more than half of the migrant population in the world today. CARAM Asia also urges States to invest in the health -including sexual, reproductive and HIV programmes and services - and education of women to ensure that migration becomes a choice rather than a necessity for survival.
In an increasingly globalised world, female migrant workers face intersectional discrimination of class, race, religion, and gender due to statelessness or their irregular status. Neo-liberal strategies have caused the commodification of women’s labour whereby profits rest on women’s labour and sexuality. Influenced by market fundamentalism and pro-capitalism, the business sector prey on women’s labour as a means to gain from a workforce which is unskilled, cheap and deemed as easily subjugated by state and employers.
Furthermore women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are violated through various protective immigration policies. While women send higher amounts of remittances than their male counterparts, it has not improved their overall status nor reduced gender inequality upon their return home. Social costs of migration for women migrants and spouses left behind by migrant husbands are far greater than their male counterparts.
Governments has invested inadequately in women’s education and skill trainings, especially in rural areas, for them to participate meaningfully in the skilled workforce that goes beyond traditional women’s roles. Therefore, women particularly in rural areas are facing unemployment, underemployment, economic and political instability, landlessness or the deterioration of the environment. They are pushed to migrate and work in informal sectors of economies of both sending and receiving countries as domestic workers, care givers, entertainers, sex workers, and cheap labourers in factories and restaurants. Under patriarchal policies and structures, women migrants work in conditions without the appropriate legal and labour protection and remain unrecognised.
Like education, health must be viewed as a form of human capital and therefore an input into the growth process. Healthier women workers are physically and mentally more energetic and robust, so they are less likely to miss work due to illness, either of themselves or because of their families. Thus, raising the incomes of the poor may not be enough to reduce “poverty” if it does not guarantee that the health of the poor is also improved.
However the rising trend or privatisation of health care systems and the introduction of user fees around the world today has reduced women’s access to health care in their country of origin and more so for migrant women working abroad . Despite these alarming trends, governments continue to ignore the need to increase investments in women’s education and skill building in order for them to play a bigger role in the skilled workforce that goes beyond traditional women’s roles.
In line with this year’s theme of “Investing in Women and Girls”, CARAM Asia calls upon States to:
1. Amend existing local laws or enact new laws to be in line with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (MWC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1.
2. Extend equal protection of the labour laws to women migrant workers in informal sectors like domestic work. Domestic workers should be granted the rights to a just wage, overtime pay, weekly rest days, benefits, and workers’ compensation.
3. Address the violation of human rights and women’s specific vulnerabilities in the process of migration by providing an empowering environment in both sending and receiving countries where women have job options to work in their country of origin.
4. Ensure migrant women’s access to gender sensitive public health and support services including sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services.
5. Remove mandatory health and pregnancy testing policies and the following deportation of pregnant women migrants, migrants tested positive for HIV and other illnesses.
6. At the primary health care level, user fees should not be imposed, irrespective of nationality of the patient.
1The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW), ratified by 37 countries in Asia Pacific (as of Oct 2006 ), covers the “right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction” for all women which does include female migrant workers. As signatories to CEDAW, States must honour and abide by these human rights principles.
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