Rights of migrant women workers
Owing to globalization, there has been a rising flow of migrant workers from nations which have a narrow economic scope to compensate for the gaps in countries which have a dwindling labour supply. While this scenario has undoubtedly accelerated trade and investment, it often threatens the migrant workers’ economic, social and physical security. This happens more often in the case of women migrant workers, who constitute a considerable percentage of the workforce in Asia and Latin America, and the numbers are steadily increasing.
Migration fosters economic independence and a standard living status for women by expanding the scope of economic processes for them. Studies indicate that women migrant workers contribute to the development of both- the country that sends them, as well as the country that receives them, and in some countries, the remittances from their incomes account for as much as 10% of the GDP.
However, apart from this brighter aspect that nurtures encouraging prospects at a global scale in terms of economy, progress, etc., migration also entails many risks for women, many of whom end up at the poorer side of the job market. Female migrants are often compelled, directly or indirectly, to work as domestic workers or prostitutes, in unregulated informal sectors that fall beyond the purview of national labour laws. Their access to social services and legal protection are frequently at stake, and miserable abuses are often meted out to them, such as harsh conditions on the domestic and working front, inadequate wages, illegal withholding of wages, premature termination of employment, etc. The exploitation reaches its ugliest form when they are forced to enter into sexual slavery.
UN has come up with many organizations and institutions that make the best possible utilization of international human rights standards, focussing their effort on promoting safe migration for women.
They work in unison with the governments of many countries, trying to encompass both the countries of origin as well as the destination, and thereafter, adopting measures to eliminate trafficking, and ensuring women’s equal opportunities and benefits from migration. They constantly strive to come up with specific programmes that will lend support in establishing laws and practices that will safeguard the human rights of women migrant workers. They attempt to do so by banking on national poverty reduction strategies, strengthening the organizations that work to aid the migrants, and advancing labour rights by facilitating exchanges between the source and destination countries. For example, in Jordan, UN Women has successfully incorporated women migrant workers in the national labour code, that has culminated in the formulation of a standard contract for them to stipulate their rights- such as the right to medical attention, timely payment of wages, etc. Media awareness has also been encouraged to enlighten the masses about the risks as well as rights of women migrant workers.
Indonesia’s Biltar district has also witnesses the intervention of UN Women to protect their rights, in the form of laws that includes a protection fund to cover costs of discrimination and abuse cases that these women have to face, and a provision to assign female doctors to administer medical care to them in order to prevent sexual harassment. In the Covenant of Ethical Conduct and Good Practices, the recruitment agencies of nine Asian countries have agreed to raise their business standards aimed at the protection of women migrant workers. The sincerest efforts are being employed to prevent illegal recruiters from ruining them economically, if not otherwise. Such agencies are also committed towards information campaigns, social security and insurance programmes, resource and welfare centres etc., all for the benefit of women migrant workers.
The 2007 Foreign Employment Act not only banned gender-based discrimination, but also implemented goal-directed steps to guarantee women’s security and rights when seeking job abroad. There are also some other such organizations working for the same cause, such as National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, International Organization for Migration etc. The general mission of all these bodies is to examine policies and normative frameworks, strengthening the knowledge base, greater regulation of the labour sectors, and increasing the number of initiatives that are intended to empower women.