QUIZ 1 - QUESTION 4

The main international instrument for protecting women’s rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), applies to all women regardless of citizenship or migration status. The CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation No. 26 (GR 26), issued in 2008, is the most comprehensive international instrument relating to women migrant workers specifically.

It seeks to protect migrant women’s human rights in all situations, including those who migrate for work, those who migrate as spousal dependents, and those who find themselves in undocumented situations. This includes the millions of female care, domestic, agricultural and other types of workers who are non-citizens in or transiting through another country. Other important instruments include the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CTM, 1990) and ILO Conventions 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and 190 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. There are also regional instruments, such as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (also known as the Belem do Para Convention).

Additional resources:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) 
  • CEDAW is among the most ratified conventions in the world. This makes it a powerful instrument for addressing gender-based discrimination and exclusion which, together with other dimensions such as age, race, ethnicity, or occupation, limit the exercise of migrant women’s human rights.
CEDAW Committee (2008) General recommendation No. 26 on women migrant workers
  • The CEDAW Committee designed GR 26 to “…contribute to the fulfilment of States parties to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of women migrant workers, alongside the legal obligations contained in other treaties…and the important work of migration-focused treat bodies, especially the Committee of the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.” It is an important instrument not only because of its broad geographic reach (covering countries of origin, transit and destination), but also because of the wide array of considerations it covers (e.g. working conditions, access to education and healthcare, trafficking, nationality, etc.).
Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belem do Para Convention) (1994)
  • The Belem do Para Convention has been ratified by most countries in the Americas. As such, it is an important instrument to address violence against migrant women. Article 9 says that “States Parties shall take special account of the vulnerability of women to violence by reason of among others, their race or ethnic background or their status as migrants, refugees or displaced persons.”
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990) 
  • The ICRMW has a lower number of Member State signatories, but remains an important instrument where ratified. It includes provisions that are identified as central to the promotion and protection of women migrant workers’ rights. For example, it does not distinguish between sex, or marital status (Art. 1). It addresses the rights of migrant workers irrespective of their legal status – a key factor in the feminization of migration. Part VI contains provisions on eliminating illegal and clandestine movements, which could be of relevance to migrant women, especially in relation to trafficking. Article 66 includes the requirement to regulate recruitment agencies for employment in another State. Article 65 includes the requirement to provide information to migrant workers in all stages of the migration process. However, the Convention does not explicitly consider the gender-specific vulnerabilities for women migrant workers or recognize their specific needs and issues.
International Labour Organization (2011) Convention 189 and recommendation 201 concerning decent work for domestic workers 
  • This convention is a fundamental tool which, after having been ratified by States, contributes to guaranteeing the rights of female nationals as well as migrant women who are employed as domestic workers.
International Labour Organization (2019) Convention 190 and recommendation 206 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. 
  • The convention recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, while the recommendation requires members to take legislative or other measures to protect all migrant workers, in particular women migrant workers, regardless of migration status, in origin, transit and destination countries, from violence and harassment in the world of work.
 UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) (2015) Behind closed doors Protecting and promoting the human rights of migrant domestic workers in an irregular situation 
  • This publication outlines the specific risks and human rights challenges facing migrant women and girls in an irregular situation who are employed as domestic workers. It summarizes the protections provided by international human rights law and presents different policy options, such as return and reintegration or regularization.

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