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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Migrante assails lack of protection for women OFWs

Migrante International, a global alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, staged a picket in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs today to denounce the government's failure to protect women OFWs who are working abroad. The group, likewise, raised serious concerns about the emerging trend of Filipinas abroad being abused in groups.

"The intensified labor export program of the Arroyo administration, which is desperately marketing OFWs as cheap labor, is taking its toll on many of our women working in different countries across the globe," said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

The group claimed that, lately, their office is being swamped by cases of violence against women migrants, and that most of the victims are domestic helpers in the Middle East. To date, the number of cases Migrante is handling involve about 60 cases of abuse against women.

"There is a disturbing trend in the kind of cases we are handling recently. We used to receive only individual cases of abuses against female OFWs, but this year there is a surge of cases of rape and other forms of abuse against groups of women OFWs in a single place of incident," revealed Martinez.

Martinez explained that starting January this year, they were already presented with the case of 5 Filipinas languishing in jail in Syria. The women were alleged victims of human trafficking and were being starved and sexually molested in prison. In February, Migrante said, more cases from two groups of women OFWs, one in UAE and another in Kuwait, also complained of being incarcerated for running away from their abusive employers.

"Since last month, 3 groups of women came to us asking for assistance, one group is from Saudi Arabia and two groups from Oman. The cases range from maltreatment to slavery and multiple rapes by their employers or recruiters. In all these cases is the common thread of government inaction!" exclaimed Martinez.

According to Martinez, one of the common complaints of the Pinays is the inutility of the government to protect them and that most of those who were able to escape were not even given proper legal assistance to prosecute their assailants.

"Sad to say, since the start of this year, not a single abusive employer or recruiter was even charged of their crimes. Most of the victims have told us that our embassy officials abroad are even discouraging them to formally file cases against the perpetrators, saying that it will only prolong their stay in the embassy premises. OFWs were even advised to just return home to their loved ones and forget about the abuses that happened to them. This is the legacy that President Arroyo will leave among our OFWs when her term ends next year," Martinez concluded.

Migrante plans to make a formal report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Migrants Rights and other international bodies that can help the victims seek justice and reparations from their alleged assailants. The United Nations General Assembly crafted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993 and by December 17, 1999, it designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

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