United Nations

A/50/378


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

29 August 1995

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH


Fiftieth session
Item 109 of the provisional agenda*


ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN

Violence against women migrant workers

Report of the Secretary-General


CONTENTS

  Paragraphs  Page

I.  INTRODUCTION .........................................1 - 32

II.  SUMMARY OF THE PROBLEM ...............................4 - 112

III.  MEASURES TAKEN .......................................12 -284

  A.  National measures ................................  12 - 144

  B.  International legal instruments ..................  15 - 165

  C.  International action .............................  17 - 275

  D.  International conferences ........................   287








                       

  *  A/50/150.


95-26608 (E)   180995/...
*9526608*
I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   In its  resolution 49/165  of 7  December 1994,  the General  Assembly,
expressing  its continuing  grave concern  about violence  and other serious
abuses committed  against women migrant workers  by some  of their employers
in  some host countries.   It proposed a  number of  measures to address the
issue  and requested the Secretary-General  to report to the Assembly at its
fiftieth session on implementation of the resolution.

2.   In resolution 49/165, the  General Assembly  recognized the obligations
of sending countries to protect and promote interests of  their citizens and
the obligations  of receiving countries  to ensure the  human rights of  all
persons  within their  boundaries, and  specifically those  of women migrant
workers.  The Assembly also  called upon relevant  intergovernmental bodies,
specialized agencies  and non-governmental organizations to conduct seminars
and  training programmes  on human  rights instruments,  particularly  those
pertaining to violence  and abuse against women  migrant workers and take  a
wide  range  of concrete  steps  to  increase  awareness  and correct  these
abuses.   The  Assembly particularly  urged  the  Special Rapporteur  of the
Commission on Human Rights on  violence against women to continue to include
violence  against women  migrant workers among the  urgent issues pertaining
to her  mandate.  Finally, the  Assembly called for  the cooperation of  law
enforcement officials and trade unions, for  legal measures to protect women
migrant  workers against  unscrupulous recruitment  practices, for seminars,
training  programmes, support  services and  rehabilitation programmes,  for
international  conferences   to  include  and   consider  this  topic,   for
information to be supplied and recommendations to be  made to United Nations
bodies and  to Governments and  for the Secretary-General  to report to  the
Assembly at its fiftieth session on the implementation of the resolution.

3.    The current  report  indicates  the  steps that  have  been  taken  to
implement the resolution, based on  information available to the Secretariat
and input received from organizations of the United Nations system.


II.  SUMMARY OF THE PROBLEM

4.    In  the report  of  the  Secretary-General  presented  to  the General
Assembly  at its forty-ninth  session (A/49/354)  it was  indicated that the
problem  of violence against  women migrant  workers had  been increasing as
part  of a  growth in  international migration  and  a  shift in  its nature
toward  temporary migration for  purposes of  work.  It noted  that both the
methods of recruitment of  women migrant workers and the types of work  that
they performed made  them vulnerable to  violence.  The  report observed  an
increase in trafficking, an  issue that is the subject of a separate report.
It  noted that  a number  of  international  instruments existed  that could
provide a legal and normative  framework for dealing with the issue.  At the
same  time,  it observed  that  much  migration was  undocumented,  removing
migrants  from national  and international  legal protection.   It described
measures being  taken by  both sending  and receiving  States and  suggested
possible conclusions.

 5.   The wider issue of migration was raised  at the forty-ninth session in
the  context  of  the  deliberations  on  the  report  of  the International
Conference  on  Population and  Development.    In  accordance with  General
Assembly resolution  49/127 of 19 December  1994 on international  migration
and  development, the  Secretary-General presented a report  to the Economic
and  Social Council  at its  substantive  session  of 1995  on international
migration  and  development. 1/    That  report described  migration trends,
including  growing  restrictions  on  labour  migration  in   industrialized
countries and a consequent increase in undocumented migration.

6.  The  issue of  violence against  women migrant  workers has  to be  seen
against that  backdrop.  This phenomenon  affects legal  women migrants who,
because  of the  circumstances  of  their employment  and  their  expatriate
status,  become  vulnerable  to  violence.    It  also  affects,  in unknown
proportions,   undocumented   women  migrants,   who   become   particularly
vulnerable largely because of their lack of legal status.

7.   The dimensions  of the  problem were  presented in  some detail  by the
Special  Rapporteur on  violence  against women,  in her  preliminary report
submitted in accordance with Commission  on Human Rights resolution 1994/45.
2/   In that  report, she  noted that  poverty and  the desire  for economic
betterment  were the motivation for most women migrant workers who take jobs
in  receiving  countries  that  others  do  not  want.    Unskilled workers,
especially  in domestic service,  experience greater  and different kinds of
violence  than other women.   Their  isolation, difficulties  with a foreign
language  and  generally illegal  status  increase  their  vulnerability  to
violence.   Forms of violence range  from inhumane  working conditions, such
as long working hours, no days off and non-payment of wages, to  starvation,
beatings and rape.  Extreme underreporting  of cases, lack of  investigation
of  reported  cases  and  continuation  of  abuse  by  police  make accurate
information about violence extremely difficult to obtain.

8.   The Special  Rapporteur noted that countries  have undertaken a variety
of measures to address the problem.   Sending countries have  unsuccessfully
tried to restrict migration.  Receiving  countries have generally had little
interest  in regulating  the working  conditions of low  paying, undesirable
jobs and  have not been  successful at  inducing migrants  to become  legal.
The tactic of  punishing migrants is  unfair to  the women  who are  already
being exploited  or abused.   Some  sending countries have  tried to  create
more jobs and better housing to  discourage migration, to educate  potential
migrants  and   to  regulate  recruitment   agencies.    These  efforts  are
considered promising.

9.   The  Special Rapporteur  further noted  that international  instruments
should  be  used  to  reinforce the  duty  of sending  countries  to apprise
citizens  of their rights  and of  receiving countries  to ensure protection
for the human rights  of all people within  its borders.   Specific measures
include  the   regulation  of  recruitment   agencies;  legal,  social   and
educational outreach  to migrant women; trained  female police officers  and
protection from male  officers; training for embassy personnel;  enforcement
of national labour standards for all  workers that conform to  international
guidelines;  better  enforcement of  existing  laws;  involvement  of  trade
unions;  and  implementation of  relevant  United  Nations  resolutions  and
reporting mandates.

 10.  The  Special Rapporteur concluded that  migration cannot be stopped or
prohibited  and  efforts  should be  directed  toward  protection  for women
migrant workers.

11.  The  available data on violence  against migrant domestic workers  were
reviewed for  The World's  Women 1995:   Trends  and Statistics  3/ and  are
summarized in the section entitled "Violence against women".


III.  MEASURES TAKEN

A.  National measures

12.    In  its  resolution  49/165,  the  General  Assembly  invited  States
concerned, specifically the  sending and receiving  States of  women migrant
workers, to  conduct regular  consultations for the  purpose of  identifying
problem areas  in  promoting and  protecting  the  rights of  women  migrant
workers and  in  ensuring health  and  social  services for  them,  adopting
specific  measures  to address  those  problems,  setting up,  as necessary,
appropriate  mechanisms  to  implement  those  measures  and,  in   general,
creating conditions that foster greater harmony and tolerance between  women
migrant workers  and the  rest of  the society  in which they  reside.   The
Assembly also  called  upon  the  countries concerned  to  take  appropriate
measures  to ensure that  law enforcement  officials assist  in guaranteeing
the full protection of the rights of  women migrant workers, consistent with
the international  obligations of Member States.  It urged  both sending and
host countries to help ensure that women migrant workers are protected  from
unscrupulous recruitment  practices, if necessary  by the  adoption of legal

measures.   It invited  all States  to adopt,  with the support  of relevant
non-governmental  organizations, appropriate   measures  to provide  support
services  to  women  migrant  workers  who  have  become  traumatized  as  a
consequence of violation of their rights.

13.  No  information has been  received by the Secretariat  on consultations
that  may have  been undertaken  since  the resolution  was adopted,  nor on
other measures.  It  should be noted that there is no formal  identification
of States as sending or receiving States.   In the report of  the Secretary-
General  to the  forty-ninth session, the Philippines  and Thailand provided
information as  sending States and Mauritius and the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland provided information  as receiving States.   It
was also indicated  in the report  that temporary  migrant workers had  been
sent in significant  numbers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,  Sri
Lanka  and Thailand.   Receiving countries  noted included  Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia.

14.   In resolution 49/165,  the General Assembly  also invited trade unions
to support  the  realization of  the  rights  of  women migrant  workers  by
assisting  them in  organizing themselves  so as  to enable  them  better to
assert  their rights. The  Secretariat has  received no  information on this
issue.


 B.  International legal instruments

15.   In  its resolution  49/165,  the  General Assembly  encouraged  Member
States to  consider signing and ratifying  or acceding  to the International
Convention on  the Protection  of  the  Rights of  All Migrant  Workers  and
Members  of Their  Families.   As  at  16  July  1995, five  States  (Egypt,
Colombia,  Morocco, the Philippines and Seychelles) had  ratified or acceded
to the  Convention  and two  additional  States  had signed  the  Convention
without yet  ratifying (Chile and  Mexico).  The Convention  will enter into
force when  at least  20 States have ratified  it.  In this  connection, the
Assembly,  at  its forty-ninth  session,  adopted  resolution  49/175 of  23
December 1994,  in which it,  inter alia, called  upon all  Member States to
consider signing and ratifying  or acceding to the Convention as a matter of
priority.    A similar  resolution was  adopted by  the Commission  on Human
Rights at its fifty-first session (resolution 1995/21 of 24 February 1995).

16.   In  this connection,  the Commission  had before  it a  report  of the
Secretary-General  on  the  status of  the International  Convention  on the
Protection  of the  Rights  of All  Migrant  Workers and  Members  of  Their
Families. 4/


C.  International action

17.   In  its resolution 49/165,  the General Assembly  called upon relevant
bodies   and   specialized  agencies   of   the   United   Nations   system,
intergovernmental   organizations  and   non-governmental  organizations  to
inform the Secretary-General of the extent of  the problem and to  recommend
further  measures to  implement the  purposes of  the resolution.    It also
requested   treaty-monitoring   bodies   and   called  up   non-governmental
organizations  to include, where appropriate, the situation of women migrant
workers  in  their   deliberations  and  findings  and  to  supply  relevant
information to  United  Nations bodies  and  Governments.   It  called  upon
relevant   intergovernmental   bodies,   specialized   agencies   and   non-
governmental organizations concerned,  in cooperation with both the  sending
and  the host  countries, to  conduct  seminars  and training  programmes on
human rights instruments, particularly those pertaining to migrant  workers.
It also invited the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights  on
violence against  women  to continue  to  include  among the  urgent  issues
pertaining  to her  mandate the  violence perpetrated against  women migrant
workers.

18.   At its  thirty-ninth session,  the Commission  on the Status  of Women
again considered the topic of violence  against women migrant workers  based
on  the report  of the  Secretary General to  the General Assembly.   On the
basis  of its consideration,  the Commission  adopted resolution  39/7 of 31
March  1995, entitled  "Violence  against  women migrant  workers".    While
containing  many  of  the provisions  found in  General  Assembly resolution
49/165, it also called  upon States Members  of the United Nations to  adopt
measures  for  the  effective  implementation  of  the  Declaration  on  the
Elimination  of Violence  against Women,  including applying  them to  women
migrant workers.  It  urged Member States to adopt and implement measures to
eradicate all  forms of racism and xenophobia and promote education on human
rights understanding and acceptance of cultural  diversity.  It called  upon
States to  explore  the possibility  of  adopting  measures to  prevent  the
victimization  of  women  migrant  workers  by  sexual  traffickers  and  to
penalize  those traffickers,  including  ratifying the  Convention  for  the
Suppression  of  the Traffic  in  Persons and  of  the Exploitation  of  the
Prostitution of  Others.   It  invited  relevant  United Nations  functional
bodies  and specialized  agencies, in  particular the  International  Labour
Organization,   intergovernmental    organizations   and    non-governmental
organizations, to  monitor the  situation of  women migrant  workers and  to
submit  reports thereon through  normal channels.   It  recommended that the
Committee on the Elimination of All  Forms of Discrimination against  Women,
in its consideration of  States Parties' reports, inquire into the status of
migrant  women  workers and  propose  measures  for  their  protection.   It
recommended to  the Centre for  Human Rights that  it include  the promotion
and  protection  of  the human  rights  of  women  migrant  workers  in  its
programme  of  work  relative  to  its  advisory  training  and  information
services and submit  to the Assembly, through the Commission on Human Rights
and  the  Economic  and  Social  Council,  its  reports  thereon.   It  also
recommended to  the Commission on  Human Rights that  it make  the rights of
women  migrant workers  one  of its  priority concerns.    It  requested the
Secretary-General  to ensure  the development  of concrete  indicators as  a
basis for  future action to determine the situation of women migrant workers
in sending  and receiving countries and  to consider  establishing an expert
group to submit  recommendations for improving  coordination of  the various
efforts  of the United Nations on behalf of  migrant workers, for submission
to the Assembly at its fiftieth session.

19.   The issue  of women migrant workers was  also discussed by the Working
Group on  Contemporary Forms of Slavery  of the  Subcommission on Prevention
of Discrimination  and Protection of Minorities  of the  Commission on Human
Rights at its twentieth session.   At the 7th meeting, a  few members of the
Working  Group expressed  their concern  for  the  fate of  migrant workers.
They noted that in  several cases national laws were not in conformity  with
the International  Bill on  Human Rights.   They  also invited countries  to
ratify  the International Convention  on the  Rights of  All Migrant Workers
and members of Their Families and to adopt  and guarantee the implementation
of non-racist  laws.   At the same  meeting, the  observer for  Anti-Slavery
International  drew the  attention of the  Working Group to  a book entitled
Britain's  Secret Slaves  - An  Investigation  into  the Plight  of Overseas
Domestic Workers.

20.  The Working Group adopted recommendation 8 on migrant workers in  which
it recalled  the  adoption by  the  General  Assembly of  the  International
Convention  on  the  Protection of  the Rights  of  All Migrant  Workers and
Members of  Their Families  in its  resolution 45/158  of 18 December  1990.
The  Working Group  noted that  in  recent  years many  countries have  been
running  their development  programmes, as  well as  maintaining  day-to-day
essential services, with the help of a foreign migrant labour force.

21.  The Working  Group also noted that these workers are frequently subject
to  discriminatory rules  and  regulations which  undermine  human  dignity,
including forcing them to live separately from  their spouse and their minor
children, sometimes for  extended periods, and strongly condemned  practices
of unequal treatment  of migrant workers and the  denial to them of  minimum
human consideration and dignity.

 22.   The  Working Group  recommended that  non-governmental  organizations
give attention to the grave problems  affecting migrant workers and  provide
information to  the Working Group  in this regard.   It  also recommended to
the  Subcommission  on  Prevention  of  Discrimination  and  Protection   of
Minorities that it examine this issue at its forty-seventh session.

23.   The Special Rapporteur on  violence against  women considered violence
against women migrant workers in her preliminary report, as noted above.

24.  With  regard to the recommendation of  the Commission on the Status  of
Women  that the  Secretary-General consider  the establishment  of an expert
group, the  short  time  between  the adoption  of  the resolution  and  the
fiftieth session  of the General Assembly,  given also  the preparations for
the Fourth  World Conference on  Women, has made  it impossible  to organize
the requested expert group meeting.

25.  The  Commission on  Human Rights, at  its fifty-first session,  adopted
resolution 1995/20  of 24  February 1995, entitled  "Violence against  women
migrant  workers".  In  that resolution  the Commission  expressed its grave
concern  at  the plight  of  women migrant  workers  who  become  victims of
physical,  mental and  sexual harassment  and  abuse.   The  Commission also
called upon States concerned, specifically the sending  and receiving States
of women migrant workers, to conduct  regular consultations for the  purpose
of  identifying problem  areas in  promoting  and  protecting the  rights of
women  migrant workers and in ensuring health and  social services for them,
adopting specific  measures  to  address  those  problems,  setting  up,  as
necessary,  appropriate  mechanisms to  implement  those  measures  and,  in
general,  creating conditions  that  foster greater  harmony  and  tolerance
between women  migrant workers  and the rest  of the society  in which  they
reside.

26.   Increased  cooperation  and  involvement of  relevant  United  Nations
bodies  and  specialized  agencies,  together  with  sending  and  receiving
countries concerned, was also  called for by the Commission on Human Rights.
Furthermore,  the Special Rapporteur  of the  Commission on  Human Rights on
violence  against women was invited to continue to  include among the urgent
issues  pertaining  to her  mandate the  violence perpetrated  against women
migrant workers and to consider including her findings in her report to  the
Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session.

27.  In  this regard, and on the basis of allegations  received from various
sources, the Special Rapporteur on violence  against women intends to  carry
out a  fact-finding mission  to a  receiving country  in the latter  half of
1996, to permit an in-depth analysis of the problem at hand.


D.  International conferences

28.    In its  resolution 49/165,  the  General Assembly  invited the  World
Summit for Social  Development, the Fourth World Conference on Women and the
Ninth United Nations Congress on  the Prevention of Crime  and the Treatment
of Offenders to consider including in  their respective programmes of action
the subject  of the  traffic in  women and  girls, as  well as  youth.   The
extent  to which this has been done  is reported in detail in  the report of
the Secretary-General on traffic in women and girls (A/50/369).


Notes

  1/  E/1995/69.

  2/  E/CN.4/1995/42.

  3/  United Nations publication, Sales No. E.95.XVII.2.

  4/  E/CN.4/1995/73.


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