Honorable Mr. Chairperson and distinguished representatives, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and our allies and partners from civil society working on a variety of issues, including migrants’ health and rights, women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and young people’s rights, we thank you for the opportunity to speak at this session. We commend the United Nations Commission on Population and Development for focusing the 46th session on migration.
During this important session, we would like to draw your attention to a major challenge being faced by migrant workers, particularly women, young people and undocumented/irregular migrant workers. This is the issue of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Structural barriers to this issue include:
- discriminatory laws;
- lack of protective policies;
- costly, privatised or unavailable health supplies and services, and
- cultural attitudes and communication barriers
These lead to outcomes such as poor sexual and reproductive health among migrants, including unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, STIs, HIV infection, reproductive tract infections. Migrant workers’ sexual and reproductive rights are often denied, including their rights to choose screening for HIV, STIs and pregnancy; and their right to form relationships; to found a family; and to have children in countries of destination, especially for unskilled women workers. Mental health, gender-based and sexual violence are also critical health and rights issues for migrant workers.
Today, a large part of our population is on the move, whether they cross border or move to cities. All of us in this room know migrants – whether they be domestic workers, restaurant wait staff, nurses, caregivers, IT professionals, entertainment industry workers, sex workers, factory workers, or international organization/UN staff. In fact, there were 214 million international migrants globally in 2010 – more than the 194 million population of Brazil, the 5th most populous country in the world. Of this total migrant stock, half are women and 15.6% are between ages 0-19.
Asia-Pacific, the region where I come from, has 6 of the top countries of origin, and the region represents many important migration flows. Meanwhile, there are so many more internal migrants, as people migrate from rural to urban areas to seek a better life or are forced to move due to various circumstances like conflict, land grabbing or climate change-induced disasters. Migrants, whether international or internal, contribute significantly to the economic, social and cultural development of countries of origin, transit and destination.