Zonta International calls for protection of migrant women on International Migrants Day

International Migrants Day, celebrated on 18 December, marks the anniversary of the 1990 adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by the United Nations General Assembly.

The theme for this year’s International Migrants Day is “Reimagining Human Mobility.” Migrants have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 during the past months; their work in health, transportation and food service have helped to make life under lockdown more bearable.

“However, like many who find themselves living on the margins of society, migrants are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 through job losses, evictions and discrimination,” the UN said. “Millions of migrants are stranded, often without income or shelter, unable to return home due to COVID-19 mobility restrictions, and they also face increased risks of trafficking and exploitation.”

The pandemic is not an excuse to push back commitments to promote and protect the rights of migrants regardless of their legal status. There are currently an estimated 272 million international migrants in the world, around half of whom are women.

“While we believe it is important to protect all migrants in crisis, especially in the face of COVID-19, Zonta International recognizes that migrant women, in particular, often remain excluded from social protections and face increased risks of trafficking and exploitation,” said Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck.

According to a UN Women policy brief, migrant women have specific needs relating to health care and protection in case of maternity and violence. They are more likely than non-migrant women to have jobs that lack occupational health and safety and are typically excluded from access to maternity protection and from all-but-emergency health care.

Zonta International supports the following recommendations from UN Women on ensuring migrant women’s access to health care, maternity protection and services in cases of violence against women.

  1. Recognize and address the gender-specific barriers that prevent migrant women from accessing social protection.
  2. Ensure that social protection measures are gender-responsive and address the specific situations and needs of migrant women and girls.
  3. Align laws and regulations with existing human rights obligations, including the right to health and the right to social protection.
  4. Extend non-contributory social protection benefits and services to non-citizens, including migrants on temporary work visas such as seasonal agricultural and domestic workers.
  5. Establish specifically tailored initiatives to reach migrant women and girls, such as mobile clinics or one-stop centers, and provide services in a culturally sensitive and gender-responsive manner in a language that the migrant understands.
  6. Separate access to social protection and public services from immigration enforcement activities to ensure that migrant women with irregular status are not afraid to access them.
  7. Reform gender discriminatory family migration regulations to provide migrant women with residence permits, independent of spouses and employers, and facilitate access to services and benefits in instances when relationships break down.

Zonta invites all of its clubs and members to join us in affirming the need to provide migrant women with these protections and to work with their local governments to follow UN Women’s recommendations.

18 DECEMBER 2020