UN Commission Closes With Strong Protection for Migrant Women

Late Friday night, the 46th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development wrapped up here in New York, and we’re happy to report the final resolution recognizes the critical need for migration policies that protect human rights and meet the needs of women and youth.

You only need to read the headlines every morning to know that immigration is a big issue, so the theme of this year’s session, “New Trends in Migration,” was especially timely. Today, more women are migrating than ever before, representing nearly half of the total international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 to 80 percent.

During the process of migration, women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly breaches of their sexual and reproductive health and rights including violence and sexual coercion.

In recognition of these realities, the Resolution urges governments to “incorporate a gender perspective into all policies and programs on international migration,” and to “strengthen actions to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence, coercion, discrimination, trafficking in persons, and exploitation and abuse of women and girls.”

The Resolution also calls upon governments to provide migrants with access to sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, and implement measures to prevent violence. These services include emergency contraception, safe abortion where permitted by law, and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

Françoise Girard, President of IWHC, welcomed the final Resolution:

“We are pleased that governments have committed to respecting the rights and meeting the needs of migrant women and girls, given the large numbers of women who migrate for work around the world today. This agreement makes clear that health services for migrant women must include sexual and reproductive health services, including vital services for migrants who have suffered violence such as emergency contraception and safe abortion.”

The negotiations during the weeklong Commission reached tense levels over issues of whether and to what extent migrants should have access to services. The European Union and Canada, in particular, strongly opposed extending services to all migrants regardless of migration status. For its part, the Vatican once again argued against sexual and reproductive health and rights and claimed not to see any connection between sexual and reproductive health and migration—turning a blind eye to the clear needs of migrant women and girls. The Vatican was joined by conservative governments such as Nigeria, Egypt, and Qatar. In the end, however, they were unable to thwart consensus.

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