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Protecting Women Migrants: Finding the Balance Protecting Women Migrants: Finding the Balance
by Rene Wadlow
2012-12-18 09:32:31
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The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day to mark the date in 1990 when the Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. (Resolution 45/58)

For the moment, migration policy and legislation is made largely at the national level.  The European Union has tried to develop a single European immigration and refugee policy at the Tampere Summit of 1999.  Yet in practice, the EU policy has focused on the ‘security of borders ‘— a very limited vision.  No relationship exists between border security policies and the development of the countries of origin.  This fact was highlighted by the anti-Rom measures carried out in France during 2010 and again in 2012 with a good deal of government-sponsored publicity and more quietly in other countries but with the same aims.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1990, the pattern of geo-strategic power has shifted in the world, and migration is an issue that is inextricably linked to these changes.  Migration is an issue that spans the globe and is symbolic of the new patterns of power and the post-Cold War conflicts.

The relevant political scale for dealing with and regulating migratory patterns has moved to the world level while implementation remains largely at the national level. Migratory flows have become more diverse, creating more complex and varied routes. Trafficking in persons has become a world-wide business which often entails serious violations of human rights and undermines the dignity of the person. Trafficking flourishes amidst the hardship of the least protected and vulnerable women, men and children.  Human poverty, not only lack of income but also health care, scarcity of food, obstacles to education, inequality of opportunities, including gender discrimination, affect migratory flows.

Trafficking is done in total disregard for the dignity of the person and of his welfare.  The recent increase in the scope, intensity and sophistication of crime around the world threatens the safety of citizens everywhere and hinders countries in their social, economic, and cultural development.  The dark side of globalization allows multinational criminal syndicates to broaden their range of operations from drug and arms sales to trafficking in human beings.

The smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of human beings for prostitution and slave labour have become two of the fastest growing worldwide problems of recent years.  From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities — especially women and girls — are attracted by the prospect of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress of factory worker.  Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues, casual acquaintances, and even family.

The lack of economic, political and social structures providing women with equal job opportunities has also contributed to the feminization of poverty, which in turn has given rise to the feminization of migration, as women leave their homes to look for viable economic solutions.  In addition, political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflict and natural catastrophes increase women’s vulnerability and can contribute to the rise of trafficking.

However, trafficking in human beings is not confined to the “sex industry”.  Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops, and men to work in the “three D jobs” — dirty, difficult and dangerous.

We must not underestimate the difficulties and dangers which exist in the struggle against trafficking. It is a task which requires participatory action to change attitudes, to overcome apathy and to root out deep-set corruption.

An important challenge is the promotion of the human rights of migrants in the countries of origin, transit and destination.  When the human rights of migrants are ignored or curtailed, their capacity to contribute to the development of their own country and of host societies is undermined.  Thus, as citizens of the world, we call for cooperative action and a true world policy on migrations in which migrants themselves have a say. Migration has become a defining feature of the contemporary world and planning by both governments and civil society is needed at the world level.

Today, women constitute almost half of all international migrants world wide, some 95 million persons.  Yet, despite their contribution to poverty reduction, it is only recently that national governments and the UN system have begun to grasp the significance of what migrant women have to offer.

While the great majority of those who move are still internal migrants, that is, individuals or families who migrate within their own country, the number of international migrants is substantial.  For a long time, the issue of women migrants has been low on the international policy agenda.  Now, things are starting to change as there is growing recognition of the human rights of women and the need for gender equality.

Women are migrating and will continue to do so.  Many people are increasingly looking to migration as a way to provide for their families.  The remittances, that is, the earnings which migrants send home, are often needed to meet the daily needs of the family as well as for education and health.  Women migrants are among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses — both as migrants and as women. Their hard work deserves recognition, and their human rights deserve protection.

There is a need for action at the national level but with a world vision. This is a prime task for world citizens to highlight the world dimension of issues as they arise at the national level and to stress that all persons within the world community be treated with dignity and respect

Rene Wadlow, President and representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens

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Emanuel Paparella2012-12-18 11:16:44

"...to stress that all persons within the world community be treated with dignity and respect."

Amen to the above statement. The operative word here is “person.” It includes race, ethnic background, occupation, age, nationality, education and culture, differing talents, even gender as found in the individual person. That is to say, it is another word for expressing the concept of being human. When only one of these characteristics is stressed at the expense of the others, discrimination and injustice usually ensues. No person ought to ever be discriminated because of the differences in these human characteristics.

David Sparenberg2012-12-19 08:36:03
Hello Rene, my friend. Thank you, as always, for focusing attention on an increaingly probelmatic and challenging global issue. It is one of the soul shaking disgraces of the 21th century that the forms of resurgent slavery and large scale neglect--trafficing and displacement--are so much with us. The service you provide in speaking up and speaking out before these forms of hardship and suffering is invaluable and much to emulated. My sincere thanks and glad to find words from here on OVI.

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