22 May 1996

Press Release


At the invitation of the United Nations, a group of international experts will meet in Manila from 27 to 31 May to consider the situation of women migrant workers.

A resolution adopted by the General Assembly last December requested the Secretary-General to convene such a meeting with the participation of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women of the Commission on Human Rights. The meeting is expected to submit recommendations to the General Assembly for improving coordination among various United Nations agencies and for developing indicators as a basis for determining the situation of women migrant workers. The group will also address ways to improve the procedure for reporting to the United Nations on the situation of these women.

In preparing the recommendations, the experts will review information on the situation of women migrant workers, existing national and international policies and legislation, and current programmes that address the problems.

The Division for the Advancement of Women, which is organizing the meeting on behalf of the Secretary-General, has invited international experts to the meeting, including: Alcestis Abrera-Mangahas, of the Philippines; Badria Abdullah Al-Awadhi, of Kuwait; David Cox, of Australia; Miche`le Hirsch, of Belgium; and Daiva K. Stasiulis and Katerine Landuyt, of the Philippines. Observers from governments, the United Nations system, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations will also attend the meeting.

Violence against women migrant workers has been of growing concern to the international community. In a report to the General Assembly in 1994, the Secretary-General indicated that the problem of violence against women migrant workers had been increasing with the growth in international migration and the shift towards temporary migration for the purpose of work. The methods of recruitment of women migrant workers and the types of work they perform have made them vulnerable to violence.

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Several recent studies have confirmed reports of widespread violence against women migrant workers. According to the Asia and Pacific Development Center, there are 1 million to 1.7 million foreign women currently employed as domestic workers in the Asian countries studied. Many of these women, who migrate for promised jobs in domestic service, catering or entertainment, find themselves tricked into prostitution. Since they are often illegal or undocumented immigrants, these women are vulnerable to abuse, the study notes.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women in a 1994 report discussed the types of violence suffered by women migrant workers. These ranged from inhumane working conditions, such as long working hours, no days off and non-payment of wages, to starvation, beatings and rape. Unskilled workers, especially in domestic service, experienced greater and different kinds of violence than other women. The Special Rapporteur noted that a variety of measures had been undertaken to address the problem. Sending countries had unsuccessfully tried to restrict migration. Receiving countries, which had little interest in regulating the working conditions of low paying, undesirable jobs, had not been successful at inducing migrants to become legal. The Special Rapporteur suggested that international instruments be used to reinforce the duty of sending countries to apprise citizens of their rights and the duty of receiving countries to ensure human rights protection of all people within their borders.

The Platform for Action, the final document adopted in Beijing at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, called for the recognition of the vulnerability of women migrants, including women migrant workers, to violence and other forms of abuse. It called for the establishment of linguistically and culturally accessible services for all migrant women and girls who were victims of gender-based violence.

The General Assembly, in a resolution adopted last December, urged Member States to enact and reinforce penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs done to women who were subjected to any form of violence, whether in the home, the workplace, the community or society as a whole. The Assembly reiterated the need for sending and receiving States to conduct regular consultations for the purpose of identifying and addressing problems in the promotion and protection of the rights of women migrant workers.

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