Forced migration in the Philippines has become one of the worst causes and manifestation of all forms of abuse, oppression and exploitation of Filipina migrant workers all over the world.
Under the administration of Pres. BS Aquino, more women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been forced to migrate and leave their families. Since 2010, 4,884 Filipinos leave the country daily – among them, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, grandparents who were forced to face dire straits and uncertain conditions abroad due to widespread joblessness, landlessness and dismal social services here in the country. To date, women OFWs make up more than half (55%) of the stock estimate of OFWs, outnumbering male OFWs especially in the service sector (Center for Filipinos Overseas, 2012).
On International Women’s Day, Migrante International and Migrante Sectoral Party give tribute to all Filipina migrant workers who continue to fight against abuses and exploitation, and stand in solidarity with them in the struggle against forced migration and modern-day slavery being espoused by the BS Aquino administration’s more aggressive labor export policy.
Women OFWs face very specific vulnerabilities because they are women – sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the sorts of work they tend to predominante. This is especially the case when women OFWs migrate for work that is in line with their traditionally-defined reproductive roles in society (i.e. domestic workers, nurses, caregivers, etc.).
The current onslaught of the global economic crisis further intensifies abuses and violations faced by women OFWs. The worsening crisis makes them more vulnerable to trafficking, criminalization of irregular or undocumented migrants, and drives them to tolerate more abuses in the workplace. The worsening crisis under the BS Aquino regime conceives for them more desperate conditions, locally and abroad.
The devastation of supertyphoon Yolanda that has exposed Pres. BS Aquino’s criminal failure and incompetence to deliver relief, rescue and rehabilitation to victims and survivors, has brought forth another circumstance that thrives on the desperation and massive poverty of the people, especially women and children.
There had been reports of rape incidents in Leyte in the aftermath of Yolanda. The slow pace of reconstruction and rehabilitation and the failure to provide immediate relief to survivors in affected areas have pushed women and children to trafficking for sex and work abroad.
Under the BS Aquino administration, the number of trafficked OFWs, mostly women, has reached a staggering 1.3 million, according to 2012 data by the CFO. Many of them migrated to work through legal and illegal means but were later coerced into exploitative conditions, drug trade or white slavery.
In 2013, Pres. BS Aquino pursued cosmetic reforms, among them signing the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. However, government efforts have hardly scratched the surface of the anti-trafficking campaign, however much it lauds itself in the media. The resolution of cases of human trafficking/illegal recruitment is close to nil, with most of perpetrators or recruitment agencies being given mere administrative sanctions only to be able to operate again. And so the vicious cycle continues.
Unfortunately, the BS Aquino government lacks the political will to fully address these cases. There are also reports of immigration and police officers who are coddlers of trafficking syndicates but, so far, no public or government officials in any level has been prosecuted. Likewise, many abused, exploited and maltreated women OFWs are yet to attain justice, with government support and assistance generally lacking.
Today, marching with us are brave women OFWs from different parts of the world, and their families, who braved their plight and survived. They continue to call for justice. They realize that forced migration and modern-day slavery can only ever be stopped on a day when our citizens will no longer be forced to face dire and dangerous conditions overseas out of desperation, poverty and hopelessness. Migrante marches with them in solidarity with the women’s struggle for freedom and national democracy. This International Women’s Day, we salute and honor them and other women OFWs around the world. ###