Statement of the International Migrants’ Alliance on the 2013 International Women’s Day
This shall be the call of the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) as we join the many working women around the world in commemorating the International Working Women’s Day this March 8, 2013.
We remember and continue to be inspired by the defiance of the women workers who fought for class and gender liberation when they struggled collectively against low wages, long working hours and oppressive working condition in the factories they worked in. Their defiance and struggle was what started and marked the International Working Women’s Day and it is what we aim to continue unto this day.
The active participation of our women and men members in the February 14, 2013 One Billion Rising campaign is a clear manifestation of our collective unity against exploitation and oppression of women.
The exploitation of women migrants and refugees is not only about domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape. It is also the abject poverty in many of our motherlands that pushes us to separate from our families and loved ones and work abroad, the oppressive policies and practices that we are subject to, the labor export policy that treats migrants as mere commodities without rights or dignity, and the many institutions like the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) that champions this anti-migrant paradigm.
The problems of women are also based on the patriarchal structures that are embedded in this current system. These structures serve only the interest of those who advocate the neoliberal framework in society.
The categorization and stereotyping of women in household work. The continuous practice of women receiving less pay than men. The further degradation of rights and benefits that women migrants should receive as workers. Unless the system is completely abolished and replaced, this structure of patriarchy and bias against women will remain.
Years after the eruption of the global economic crisis, the conditions of local and migrant workers did not change for the better. Rather, these conditions have worsened with the further imposition by States of neoliberal policies that downgrade, depress and violate migrants’ rights and dignity.
We witness the depression of wages in many labor-receiving countries. The meager salaries by which we are made thankful for despite the long hours of backbreaking work they are made to do in the households, factories and construction sites.
We witness the subhuman working conditions in labor camps and workplaces that they are made to live in and tolerate. We witness how they are forced to surrender their passports and documents to their employers rendering them vulnerable to becoming undocumented.
We witness the many State-imposed policies, circulars and practices that literally erase all rights and freedoms supposedly accorded to them. The Kafala system in many Gulf countries, the employment permit system (EPS) in South Korea, and the many cases of labor trafficking that the IMA and its member organizations have documented that only make strong the conditions many women migrants are in – that of modern-day slavery.
Social exclusion intensifies as the global economic crisis worsens. Migrants become scapegoats for governments stating the former as stealers of jobs or sucking the social services dry. They become easy targets of racism and discrimination. We have witnessed how the Roma and other ethnic minorities in Europe have been marginalized while migrants in many countries like Malaysia, the Gulf and the USA are seen as second-class citizens and deserving of such treatment.
Women migrants suffer double discrimination and exploitation. As women, they are vulnerable and prone to sexual and physical assault and abuse. Many of them become victims of prostitution and rape. Women marriage migrants endure marital rape and domestic violence with the hopes of gaining permanent residency or citizenship.
The many undocumented women migrants suffer more without benefit of reprieve or seeking justice because the judiciary system in many of these countries see them as illegals and therefore criminals. Worse, their children are subject to the same harsh and inhuman treatment.
Yet the women migrants and refugees of the world will not take this exploitation and abuse sitting down.
The International Migrants’ Tribunal on the GFMD made clear our stance and action against labor export and modern-day slavery. The testimonies of the women witnesses there, Eni Lestari, Luz Miriam Jaramillo and Viviana Medina, speak not only of the conditions faced by women migrants and refugees but also of their defiance and collective resistance.
The Hong Kong government’s recent decision to junk the levy on employers of foreign domestic workers was a sure victory of the women migrant workers, who comprise 99% of the migrants in the territory. The establishment of organizations of women marriage migrants in many countries like Japan and Korea is a telling sign that women migrants are learning to organize and empower themselves. The strong support and contribution that the IMA has made in the formation of the International Women’s Alliance or IWA.
The onslaught of capitalism through neoliberal policies and other oppressive measures by states against migrants will not win in the long run as long as women migrants join the international migrants’ movement in resisting this system of abuse and exploitation.
Democracy, equality, rights and just peace – these are the causes that push the militant women migrants in joining the international movement resisting imperialist exploitation and abuse. The victories and the struggles of the many women in the past shall be the light and fire of inspiration for those of us who struggle on.
There is victory in struggle – and in it are women who defy, fight and struggle.
Abolish the Global Forum on Migration and Development!
Down with capitalist exploitation and abuse!
Long live the militant women migrants’ movement!
Long live international solidarity!