UN Commission Opens Session Focusing on Migrants' Rights

Yesterday, the UN’s Commission for Population and Development (CPD) opened its 46th session. The week-long session will focus on new trends in migration.

In his opening remarks, Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), emphasized the rights of female migrants among the issues most important to UNFPA’s work. Osotimehin noted women and girls make up nearly half of all the estimated 214 million migrants worldwide. He continued:

Building a life in a new country can foster greater independence and  self-confidence, and create opportunities for the empowerment of women. However, breaking down established values and practices also creates tension and vulnerability. Moreover, all too often, female migration is accompanied by exploitation and abuse and trafficking across borders, especially in unregulated and informal sectors of the economy where women predominate. These women typically have limited or no access at all to health insurance and public services, including much needed reproductive health services.

This week, IWHC and other women’s rights groups will be focusing on several key issues as government delegations negotiate a resolution.

  • Since a large percentage of the migrant population is of reproductive age, the CPD should ensure that women, men, and young people who migrate have access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education, safe abortion, and prevention, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Migrants often experience barriers to sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Migration can empower women and girls and offer them economic opportunities, but it can also be a process fraught with risk. Women and girls can experience exploitation and abuse while migrating, and in the host country. It’s critical the CPD make special provisions for the protection of female migrants against abusive labor conditions, and against sexual violence and exploitation.
  • Women and girls may be migrating to leave an abusive marriage, or escape gender-based violence. Current conflicts in Syria and Congo, for example, have brought about fresh crises of rape being used as a weapon of war. For that reason, migration policies must pay particular attention to the situation of women and girls fleeing violence.
  • Many migrants leave their homes to escape persecution because of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. States must put in place mechanisms to ensure these persons can seek refuge in a new country.
  • Finally, we’ll be watching to make sure that governments respect and promote the human rights of all and provide health and social services to all, regardless of migration or national status.

IWHC staff will be at the UN this week, so watch the #CPD46 hashtag on Twitter for our live updates.

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