The Moderator, Ms. Foo Yen Ne, from International La- bour Organisation (ILO) opened this session where the discussion centered on the need to focus on the inter- relationship of human trafficking, forced labour and vio- lence against women towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 Gender Equality.
Ms. Omna Sreeni-Ong set the context for the discussion by stating that gender imparity would take 100 years to close the gender gap. The current scenario is such that despite ratification of CEDAW in Malaysia, gender impari- ty is still widely prevalent. Despite more women entering university, there is still a huge wage gap at the workplace. Ms. Omna posed the question of why do we have women migrants, and alluded to the presence of international rings which perpetuate gender imparity. When talking about what exposes the women migrants to discrimina- tion in their home country and destination country, Ms. Omna pointed to the General Recommendation No. 26 of CEDAW which affirms that migrant women should not be discriminated against in any sphere of their life. This gen- eral recommendation intends for States to contribute to the fulfillment of the obligations of parties to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women migrant workers. The integration of gender perspective/gender response framework for women and girl migrant to coun- ter discrimination needs to be established.
Ms. Katrina Maliamauv spoke of the need to focus on the human person, i.e. men, women, LGBT, given the inter- sections of gender, race and sexuality. Men are also vul- nerable to trafficking, especially in forced labour. For women, forms of trafficking are sex, domestic worker and forced marriages. Trafficking does not happen in silo, but in an ecosystem of misogyny, patriarchy and rape culture. There is a need to rethink the current gendered ideas about work. Women’s work is under-valued and unpaid.
This is reinforced by the State. The word ‘servant’ must be eliminated. Trafficked workers are caught in an ecosys- tem of violence, subjected to verbal violence, denied pay, passports withheld. The State further normalises violence through detention. Ms. Katrina opined the need to ad- dress the culture of violence, and the need to acknowledge and be willing to have constructive conver- sations to talk about the ideology and understand the issues. Rather than coming up with new policies, we need to see what the barriers are to effective implementation of the policies, and to create the infrastructure and the awareness of the discourse, that trafficking is to be treat- ed as a breach of state rules and not as an inter-state offence. Ms. Katrina closed with some key recommenda- tions for the government to consider, namely, to provide shelter for and not detention of victims, repatriation of affected workers, compensation of wages and payments made to come to Malaysia, institute a process of healing, recognize refugees’ right to work, and the need to reori- ent our economy to strive towards an equitable economy and not be dependent on cheap labour.
Ms. Jodelen Mitra pointed to the steps required in the process when considering a policy covering violence against women migrant workers, migration and traffick- ing. Firstly, policymakers need to consider whether situ- ating the policy into the National Action Plan. It is perti- nent to involve key stake holders and to conduct the ap- propriate gender analysis. Relevant data involving the women and migrants need to be collected. A proper framework for domestic workers must be devised to pro- tect them. It is also essential to develop a complaint mechanism that must be gender sensitive. The panel closed by summarising the recommendations to the government. In relation to legislation, it was rec- ommended that the government pass a Domestic Work- ers Act and effectively enforce the Passport Act. Non- legislation recommendations involved allowing refugees or undocumented migrants to work, and make provision for anti-immigration detention. The government was urged to enhance social awareness and responsibility, and to increase meaningful civil society engagement.