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Monday, December 11, 2023

UN rights committee seeks stronger protection for Filipino women OFWs

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With a significant number of women Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) experiencing abuse, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on stronger legal protection for these women.

This was part of the CEDAW findings on Albania, Bhutan, France, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malawi, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Uruguay, after reviewing these nine States parties in its latest session.

The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations.

“The Committee called on the State party to strengthen the legal protection of women overseas Filipino workers, prosecute and sentence those who exploit and abuse them, including recruiters, and raise awareness of women overseas workers about their rights,” the UN CEDAW said.

“The Committee was concerned that a significant number of the 1.13 million women overseas Filipino workers are exploited in domestic work and prostitution, often amounting to human trafficking, and that they are primarily engaged in unskilled and low-paid jobs and are separated from their families and children for long periods of time,” it added.

The Committee also expressed concern about the use of the government of the Anti-Terror Act (2020) to “legitimize acts against women human rights defenders, land and environment defenders, and journalists, including ‘red-tagging.’”

The CEDAW said this was observed in the case of Nobel Prize laureate Maria Ressa, which led to intimidation, hate speech, threats, physical assault, harassment, arrest, and detention.

The Committee asked the Philippine government to ensure that women human rights defenders and journalists, including Ressa, are protected from harassment, surveillance, or undue restriction.

The list also includes women who are advocating for land rights, environmental protection, indigenous women’s rights and rural women’s rights, and those exercising their rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

CEDAW monitors States parties’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties.

The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts from around the world elected by the States parties, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Earlier, the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) called on the Philippine government to fulfill its obligation as a signatory to the CEDAW and its local counterpart, the Magna Carta of Women.

They challenged the Marcos administration to respect and fulfill the recommendations of UNHRC member-states, allow Special Procedures and mandate holders to conduct official visits within the Philippines, and undertake a comprehensive review of macroeconomic neoliberal policies.

The CWR also called for the revocation of the Anti-Terror Law, Executive Order 70, and the disbandment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to ensure a secure and supportive environment for the crucial work carried out by advocates for women’s rights and human rights defenders.

The 40-year-old research institution released its report in relation to the 9th Periodic Report of the Philippines in the CEDAW.

The CWR said neoliberal development policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and state repression, resulted in the patterns of violations encroaching upon women’s economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.

Further, the group said the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and discrimination, adding to the difficulties endured by Filipino women.

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