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Monday, February 12, 2007

OWWA Exec Says Religious Ties Can’t Protect Women


MANILA—A LINE in the International Declaration of Human Rights wasn’t able to protect her from a rapist, nor could the teachings of the Qu’ran: Adela is as Muslim as the Arab employer who she said repeatedly raped her until she got pregnant.“Religious affiliation, whether Muslim or Christian, does not guarantee your exemption,” Amy B. Crisostomo of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration said of Adela’s fate at the hands of her Muslim Arab employer in Kuwait.
Such is the sad twist of reality at the 58th year of the commemoration of a document guaranteeing equal protection of rights of peoples, whether they are of the same or different faith or of gender.
Likewise, the case of Adela (not her real name) slings mud on the international commemoration of Migrant Workers’ Day December 18: there are still many others –at least more than half of a million Filipinos leaving the country every year are women– needing state protection.
“No one is exempted from being raped or being maltreated [while working abroad],” added Crisostomo, officer-in-charge of OWWA in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (OWWA-ARMM).
It is from ARMM where Adela came from and gave birth to a weak premature baby who Crisostomo said the employer who raped her tried to get aborted.
Her baby symbolically led her to freedom since the Arab employer was forced to repatriate Adela before his family discovers using the Filipino Muslim from Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao as his own personal sex slave.
Adela bared the details of her horrifying experience to Crisostomo who, being a woman herself and a government employee, documented and gave the story to reporters to emphasize the danger Filipino women migrant workers face.
Data from OWWA-ARMM showed that last year, it received a total 181 welfare cases, nearly all of it (178) involving women, all working as domestic helpers.
The cases that the regional office handled involved maltreatment, unpaid salary, run-away, sexual molestation and abuse, rape, contract violation, death, overload of work, sickness, and no communication with the relative abroad among others.
Of five cases of sexual molestation/abuse/rape reported in OWWA-ARMM office, Adela’s case was so far the most serious since she bore a baby, Crisostomo said.
The baby, she added, is a testament to the cruelty of men, whether Catholic or Muslim.
The official expressed belief that violations and abused against Muslim overseas Filipino workers could be higher since there could be those who did not bother to file any complaint before the OWWA.

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