ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47
Financial Times  

Ban unfair, discriminatory on women migrant workers

The Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) has criticized the recent Sri Lankan government ban on some mothers migrating for work, saying it violates women's rights to freedom of mobility, development and employment. MFA is a network of more than 290 migrant organizations, migrants rights advocates and trade unions from 14 countries in Asia.

The March 7th announced ban restricts women with children under five years of age from migrating for work in other countries. The regulation required mothers with children aged five or older to obtain approval from a government committee after submitting proof that they can provide appropriate caretakers for their children before migrating for work.

MFA said women from Sri Lanka migrate for various reasons, the biggest factor among them poverty. Statistics show that Sri Lanka has more women migrant workers than men. The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment says that in 2005 out of the total number of departures for foreign employment, 59% were women. Migrant workers contribute to the economic growth of the country with migrant remittances amounting to US$ 2.2 billion in 2006, representing Sri Lanka's highest form of foreign-exchange earnings and equivalent to over 9% of the country's gross domestic product.

“The ban on women migrant workers affects several categories of women like domestic workers, garment workers, cleaners service workers, clerical and related workers and other health workers. The ban does not address the reasons why Sri Lankan women migrate namely: poverty, lack of jobs and the lack of economic opportunities in the country of origin.

Furthermore, restricting women's mobility will not address the social cost of migration and will not ensure the rights and wellbeing of children. Restriction can further lead to clandestine immigration and the trafficking of women, putting women's lives at risk,” the statement said.

It said Article 13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every person has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his or her own and to return to his or her country. “As a member of the United Nations, we would like to remind Sri Lanka of its obligation to protect and promote women's right to freedom of mobility,” MFA said.

The ban also discriminates against women's freedom of mobility, right to development and right to work. The MFA strongly urged the government to stop the ban on women migrating for work and said it should ensure women's right to freedom of mobility and freedom to choose her employment.

It also asked the government to develop programmes to better prepare the migrants and their families—emotionally, and psychologically-- for their eventual separation for an indefinite period of time; provide social care and other support services for families of migrants who are left behind –all families of migrant who are left behind need these, not only those with women migrants; implement strong policies that will promote and generate local decent employment for women in Sri Lanka making migration an option and not a means to survive and the Ministry of Child Development and Women Empowerment should promote and develop programmes that raise awareness on shared parenting and child rearing among parents.

It also said the government should develop specific programmes for fathers and caregivers of the children of migrant women taking into account their respective needs in child care and family management. The MFA urged the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and welfare and the Ministry of Child Development and Women Empowerment to convene as soon as possible a dialogue and consultation with concerned civil society organizations, women and migrants rights advocates and migrant workers on this issue.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.