Migrant Women Call for Improved Sexual Health Rights

 | Fri 24 Oct 2014 22:31 ICT

CityNews – More than 80 migrant women attended a meeting in Chiang Mai last week aimed at improving the lives of female workers from Burma.
Migrant women hold up signs calling for sexual and reproductive health rights for all at last Friday’s meeting. Photo: MAP Foundation.
Women from various groups representing ethnic minorities, domestic workers, sex workers, labourers, youths and HIV sufferers attended the event at the Holiday Garden Hotel and Resort. Most were from the north of Thailand, but some had travelled from the south and central regions.

They discussed measures to improve the sexual and reproductive health rights of migrant women, and made recommendations that will be submitted to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as part of the Beijing +20 consultations.

These are designed to build on the achievements of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a blueprint for advancing women’s rights that was drawn up nearly 20 years ago, in 1995.

Participants formed five groups, which discussed reproductive and maternal health, sexual health, HIV and Aids, violence against women, and women’s occupational safety and health/labour rights. Each group made recommendations calling on the Thai government and relevant authorities to implement new policies or create new ones to improve the situation of migrant women.

The event was organised by the MAP Foundation, a Chiang Mai-based group which supports migrant workers, with support from the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (Arrow).

“This review was of crucial importance for two reasons – firstly, there has been a distinct lack of political commitment to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, and secondly there has been a lack of consultation or inclusion of migrant women in previous review processes,” the MAP Foundation said in a statement.

The foundation also produced a booklet to accompany the conference, which details the problems faced by migrant women when dealing with sexual health issues. These include limited access to contraceptives, and discrimination in the workplace – many are sacked if they become pregnant, or are not allowed to take time off to visit a doctor. Paid maternity leave for migrant women is almost unheard of.

Many migrant women also face domestic violence, sexual abuse and a lack of information in their own language about sexual health issues. Cases of forced sterilisation have been reported in Thailand.

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) should not be a luxury or a privilege,” the report says. “They are a set of veritable rights that all migrant women are entitled to enjoy. However, few have questioned how migrant women can actually practice these rights and, moreover, what needs to change in order for migrant women to truly exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights.”