United Methodist Women Forum Promotes Migrant Women’s Rights
By Michelle Scott*
The intention of the statement is to lift up the needs of migrant women in the review of the Beijing Platform for Action and to call attention to the need to strengthen the involvement of migrant women in global fora.
Migrant women in all regions of the world face particular barriers and challenges to the fulfillment of their human rights and gender equality. In most regions, the basic rights of citizens are not extended to migrants, particularly those with irregular status. Women’s efforts to strengthen legal statutes and social protection for women in their nations will not improve the rights of migrant women unless specific efforts are made to recognize migrant women’s full human rights. This includes political rights, labor rights, economic and social rights and full recourse to legal protection.
Women are 75% of all refugees and 52% of the total global population of people in migration, estimated at over 220 million. Migration is occurring within nations, between neighboring countries in all regions, and from South to North. By and large women migrate out of necessity, due to economic need, climate change and war. The neo-liberal economic model, imposed on many nations through trade, aid, economic and financial policy, has undermined national economies and forced millions to migrate in search of livelihoods. Increasingly they are met with hostility and criminalization.
There is a profound hypocrisy in policies that create the necessity for migration and then take advantage of migrant’s labor and penalize or criminalize them for their presence. Xenophobic and racist attitudes are reflected in the media, public discourse and legislation. As migrants are utilized as a commodity that is sometimes needed and sometimes expendable, xenophobia intensifies in times of economic crisis when jobs are scarce. Migration issues must be addressed through global economic policies that enhance sustainable development and job creation, especially in the global South, and make migration a choice rather than a necessity. Fulfillment of MDG8 for a global partnership that more equitably shares global resources is an essential priority.
Women migrants face unique challenges. Many women must leave their children behind in order to find work to support their families. Others migrate with their families, and bear the burdens of intense work plus care-giving at home. Women tend to find work in traditional women’s roles—domestic work, child care, cooking, garment, piece work—where they work long hours for low pay and intense exploitation. Domestic work is a particularly egregious situation, where women are isolated and sometimes abused, with no benefits or recourse, in an occupation not internationally recognized as “work.” Women migrants may also face abuse and violence by employers, law enforcement, “coyotes”, and spouses. Because of the growing criminalization of migrants, they are often unable to seek redress for such abuse.
1.) NGOs must utilize several international venues to promote global migrant rights, particularly the rights of migrant women:
2.) Reaffirm the specific needs and realities of migrant women in review of the Beijing Platform for Action, as noted in the Beijing+5 review, and address the diversity of women’s experience in all aspects of the review;
3.) Recognize that MDG goals must go beyond programs for citizens to address the needs of migrant women (including those without formal status) within national territories – for example, regarding women’s poverty; maternal mortality; education for girls, etc.;
4.) Urge the Universal ratification of the UN Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, linked to CEDAW and CERD;
5.) Support the creation of a new Convention on Domestic Workers, being discussed in this year’s International Labor Conference;
6.) Address migrant women’s needs in the context of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, and specifically promote a gendered analysis of the impact of dubious “circular migration” schemes; and
7.) Raise awareness within the UN Human Rights Council of the human rights abuses women experience in the course of migration as workers, detainees and as deportees.
For further information, contact:
- Carol Barton, United Methodist Women, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cathi Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Migrant Rights International, email@example.com
- "Women Discuss Migration and Climate Change at CSW Side Event" from Ecumenical Press, March 3, 2010.
- Join the Immigration online community at www.umwonline.org.
*Michelle Scott is a freelance writer and former communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.