By Ana Elena Obando, WHRnet
Although there are many reasons why women work abroad (war and economic, social and political situations, etc.), labor migration is directly related to the global economic and political model that is a neo-liberal, increasingly militarized and perpetuated by the industrialized empires. In the same way that men maintain their gender privileges in the private sphere through various forms of exploitation, industrialized countries do it in the public sphere by exploiting cheap labor that, among other things, are provided by the poorest countries, specifically those from the Asian, African and Latin American continents.
Migrant women not only have to go through the hardship of not seeing their sons, daughters and relatives, they also face many forms of violations that are rarely heard and addressed.
Women contribute to their countries in a significant way, sending money home, and volunteering in communities that welcome them. But since feminine work has been historically unseen, most of what migrant women contribute is neither reflected in the national wealth nor is it given value by society. Philippine migrant women, for example, contribute to a great extent to the total remittances, which in 2001 reached up to 6.2 million U.S. dollars.
Migrant women are more likely than men to be exposed to forced labor, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution and other kinds of violence. They are more likely to accept hazardous work conditions and low salaries that are many times below the mandated minimum wage. Many are exposed to serious health risks, such as women working in the maquila factories and other jobs with dangerous or unhealthy working conditions. Many women are not equipped with enough information to help them fight against sexually transmitted diseases, especially the deadly HIV/AIDS.
Although it is increasingly becoming evident that migration has a gender dimension, most migratory policies and regulations still do not address gender specific problems. It is clear that sending and receiving countries still do not concern themselves with formulating inter-state measures and mechanisms that will promote and protect the human rights and dignity of women migrant workers, as well as eradicate trafficking in women and girls.
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