Item 14(a) – Migrant Workers

Joint Intervention: ALRC, LILA PILIPINA, and APWLD,
Delivered by Tati Krisnawati on 13 April 2000

Mr. Chairperson.

On behalf of the three organizations –, the ASIAN LEGAL RESOURCE CENTRE, the ASIA PACIFIC FORUM ON WOMEN, LAW AND DEVELOPMENT and LILA PILIPINA, we would like to draw your attention to the gross violations of the human rights of Asian women migrant workers.

First of all, we would like to express our appreciation of the report of Secretary general on activities of the United Nations Bodies and other international organizations pertaining to the problem of trafficking in women and girls. Based on our observations, the trafficking of women and girls is part of the phenomenon of human rights violations against women migrant workers. We also welcome the report of Secretary General on violence against women migrant workers. In particular, we very warmly welcome the appointment of Ms. Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. We sincerely hope that the Special Rapporteur, in close cooperation with the member countries will be able to undertake structural efforts to improve the situation of migrant workers.

Real progress in the field of protection of Asian women migrant workers –especially from Indonesia, Srilangka, Philipines, India, and Bangladesh— is much needed. Many of them, often having been trafficked, find themselves in very vulnerable work situations, where they are being treated inhumanely, have long working days without leave, are being underpaid or not paid at all, and sometimes don’t even get enough food to survive. Their legal position is weak, being a woman and a foreigner in the receiving country, and working in the informal sector they often face discrimination, sexual violence, rape, slavery practices, physical abuse and sometimes even forced deportation.

Even though the number of women migrant workers has increased enormously in recent years, due to poverty and unemployment in their countries of origin, their position is still weak and there is no system of protection. The position of domestic worker is not recognized as work under most national labor laws in many receiving countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. In case of legal proceedings, in most cases they lack legal representation. A case in point is that of Ms. Kartini binti Karim (or officially known as Ms. Karteen Karikander) who has been condemned to death by stoning in Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates.

Ms. Kartini is an Indonesian migrant worker, who was raped and became pregnant. However she was convicted for adultery and condemned to death by stoning. She gave birth to a baby daughter on death row and now fearfully awaits her punishment. She had no legal assistance and had no an interpreter during the court hearing while she could not speak Arabic as well as needed. What has humankind achieved, if we still allow women to be punished for the violence committed by men? Unfortunately, Kartini’s situation is by no means unusual or unique. There have been many others, and there will be many more if nothing is done to prevent such situations.

Neither the efforts of the UN to provide protection to migrant workers through the 1990 International Convention for the Protection of The Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, nor the ILO conventions concerning migrant workers, have made any difference to the lives of women migrant workers. At present only 12 countries have signed and ratified the 1990 Convention. Furthermore, several countries even implement national regulations that explicitly violate the human rights of migrants. For example, legislation in Singapore and Malaysia does not allow women migrant workers to marry their nationals.

Referring to the plight of Kartini as well as other women migrant workers all over the world sharing the same fate, we do not ask for pity, but for due respect of their rights as women, as workers in the receiving countries, and most of all as human beings. They should enjoy the right to life, the right to work and an adequate remuneration for their services, the right to equal treatment, the right to freedom and full realization of their human rights, including the rights to choose a marriage partner and to have a family.

We request the Commission to do its utmost to protect the rights of all women migrant workers by:

  1. Urging the governments of the state parties to ratify the 1990 International Convention for the Protection of The Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and other relevant conventions ; and to institute 18 December – date of adoption of the Migrants’ Convention – as International Migrants’ Day.
  2. Urging the governments to eliminate the practices of racism, discrimination, exploitation, trafficking, slavery and other violations of the rights of women migrant workers; and to bring to the court the perpetrator of those practices;
  3. Urging all states and the international community to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants;
  4. Urging individual countries, in particularly the United Arab Emirates, to provide legal aid to women migrant workers who are seeking justice through the local judicial systems and to ensure that any charges will be properly investigated to ensure a fair trial;
  5. Facilitate and structurally support the initiatives to set up an international trade union for women migrant workers;

Thank you for your attention


About admin

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

Related posts

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.