International Women’s Day 2016 Statement

Speak out against xenophobia, racism and violence against women

The Women and Global Migration Working Group denounces violence against women in all its forms.  However, we also strongly condemn the ‘othering’ of perpetrators of gender-based violence, such as happened in the reporting of widespread sexual attacks and harassment of women in central Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve 2015.   In the immediate aftermath we witnessed a frighteningly xenophobic and racist reaction in the media and political commentary that led to physical attacks on migrant and refugee men in the name of ‘protecting women’.

We loudly reject racist tropes about black and Muslim men.  Stereotyping, racial and religious profiling of their sexual behaviour and/or misogyny, with absolutely no evidence to suggest that migrant men are more likely than other men to commit sexually aggressive acts, is both racist and xenophobic.   In Europe, the rush to protect women is being used to feed anti-immigrant and refugee sentiment and a backlash against newcomers desperately seeking refuge from war and oppression.  This has disturbing historical echoes in the use of violence against Black slaves in the US, or colonised peoples in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East in the name of “protecting our women”.

All women should be safe from sexual and gender based violence, regardless of the migratory status of the women or the perpetrators of such acts.  Women are assaulted by people who have access to them—whatever the race, religion, nationality or country of birth of victims or aggressors.   This is borne out by the experiences of migrant women in countries of origin, transit, return and destination.

Migrant and refugee women face particular risks – including as women, as migrants, as precarious workers, due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, dependent migratory status and in many instances as black women, women of colour, indigenous women and women from the global South.  Profiling, prejudice and discrimination restricts their access to social, medical, psychological and legal assistance, compounding the risks they face at every stage of their journeys.

Apart from sexual violence that takes place in countries of origin (frequently one of the reasons for women migrating), this also manifests on the journeys they undertake. Examples from different continents include the constant reports of rape and sexual predation of women travelling through the Meso-American migration corridor in Central America – 80% of women in transit through Mexico suffer some kind of sexual abuse – and the routine sexual violence committed by the Magumaguma smuggler gangs on the Zimbabwe-South Africa border.

In destination countries, migrant women are at high risk of sexual and gender based violence and abuse through the precariousness of their migratory status and of the employment and economic restrictions imposed on them. Domestic workers in the Gulf States and in Europe, sex workers in European and African countries, textile and garment workers in some Mashreq and Asian countries and agriculture workers in Asia-Pacific and North America; women from sub‑Saharan countries and Asia exploited as au‑pairs in Europe; women in USA detention abused by wards; and Maquila workers on the US-Mexico border are among the myriad examples.  According to the ILO, women make up 98% of workers trafficked for sexual exploitation in the private economy and 40% of workers trafficked for labour exploitation.

Migrant women are not only at risk outside their own communities but also within, as they often lack the information, resources and networks in host countries to challenge or change the domestic situation they find themselves in.  Undocumented migrant women fear reporting domestic violence as they might face detention and deportation.  All migrant women face numerous barriers to accessing preventative, remedial and support services due to national laws that exclude or limit use by migrants as well as culturally and linguistically insensitive health, legal and social services.

The Working Group therefore asserts that the rise of violence against women cannot be ‘blamed’ on migration but rather on the rise in patriarchal and nationalistic expressions of culture and identity, stemming from economic and social systems and conditions, in nearly every country and society around the world.  

In addition, a complex intersection between racism, gender based violence and xenophobia is becoming a global patriarchal phenomenon and is playing out in both contemporary homogenous and pluralist societies where different cultures, customs and codes coexist and interact.

The Working Group believes that ‘outsourcing’ violence against women as a problem of others, outsiders from and within the global South, and setting one marginalised group against another is a disingenuous, anti-feminist, anti-migrant/refugee, and dangerous response.  Conversely, building solidarity between oppressed groups points to the answers, as this demands that we all challenge our own prejudices, the inequalities and discrimination in our own contexts, and the global systems of post-colonial power and privilege that create and foster racism, xenophobia and violence against women.

WIMN Launches Global Mapping Project on Gender & Migration

Women in Migration Network (WIMN) is partnering with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) to map organizations and experts addressing the intersection of gender and migration through research, advocacy and mobilization. (Abajo, un mensaje en español)

At this critical time for migration — especially in the throes of the global pandemic, this initiative will help to identify key organizations and leaders addressing the rights of women in migration at the local, national, regional and global levels. Importantly, the survey will also help to name allies within other sectors — such as labor, climate change, women’s rights, LGTBIQ rights — with whom to build cross-sectoral alliances. The survey aims to assess how these organizations are responding to the current Covid-19, and how the lives of women in migration are impacted by the pandemic.

The project will map organizations and experts by region (divided into the Americas; Europe; Africa- MENA, Asia and the Pacific), laying the basis for future regional and global organizing within the context of migration governance, women’s rights movement, labor organizing and in other relevant sites of intervention. 

The survey, available in English and in Spanish, will also assess organizations’ practical and strategic needs and priorities. Finally, drawing from the results of the survey and a series of in-depth interviews with key regional stakeholders, the project will produce a report on regional trends and actors on gender and migration.

Organizations wishing to participate in the survey can go to these links:

In English: https://es.surveymonkey.com/r/S29MQ6P

En español: https://es.surveymonkey.com/r/QTVWK39

Thank you for your participation in this project!

If you have any further questions about this project, please contact project coordinator Paola Cyment pcyment@womeninmigration.org

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Mensaje en español:

Una invitación para Participar en el Proyecto de Mapeo Global:

Organizaciones Trabajando por las Mujeres en la Migración

Estamos solicitando tu colaboración para completar esta encuesta ¡No va a tomarte más de 10 minutos! Tu colaboración contribuirá a compilar un Mapeo Global sobre Género y Migración y a conocer cómo las mujeres en la migración están siendo impactadas por el COVID-19.

Por favor, haga click aquí para participar de la encuesta.

Esta es una iniciativa conjunta de la Red de Mujeres en la Migración (WIMN) y la Fundación Ebert Stiftung para mapear organizaciones y expertas que trabajan la temática de género y migración a través de la investigación, la incidencia y la movilización. 

¡Nuestras más sinceras gracias por tu colaboración!

Progress for Domestic Workers, But More Needed

In the five years since the International Labour Organization adopted Convention 189 on Domestic Workers, governments in nearly 50 countries have updated their legislation to provide better employment protection for domestic workers, and 22 countries have already ratified the Convention.

An estimated 15 million workers now have improved rights and protections at work, included the right to at least one day off per week, doubling or even tripling of the applicable minimum wage as well as access to social protection. Dozens of new unions for domestic workers have been formed since 2011, with a total membership of some 100,000.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “The success of the campaign for domestic workers’ rights so far has been founded on an effective combination of organising and mobilising with action to achieve legislative change and the setting of the new global standard at the ILO. There remains much to be done, but the power of domestic workers is here to stay.”

Madagascar, Senegal and Spain are expected to join the list of countries which have ratified the ILO Convention, with Oman planning to extend rights and protections. Similar steps are expected in Bahrain, a country not usually noted for respecting workers’ rights. Draft domestic workers’ laws have been developed in India and Indonesia, and alliances of domestic workers, their unions and other allies are pressing for adoption of these laws by 2018.

The ITUC’s 12 + 12 campaign and the International Domestic Workers’ Federation have been driving forces for the campaign internationally, with national coalitions pushing successfully for legal reform and the organisation of domestic workers.

“There are over 67 million domestic workers in the world, the vast majority of them women. More than 11 million are migrant workers. Outside the official figures, some 17 million children are believed to be trapped in domestic work, many in conditions of forced labour. Clearly there is a huge amount to do, but we are now working from solid foundations, with domestic workers themselves increasingly taking the lead. We call upon all governments to ratify ILO Convention 189, and to bring in the legal and other protections that these workers need and deserve,” said Burrow.

See the Domestic Workers’ page

For more information, see the ITUC/IDWF/ILO publication “Domestic Workers Unite

Article from International Trade Union Confederation