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UN: Many women OFWs exploited in domestic work, prostitution

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on Monday expressed concern that many women overseas Filipino workers become victims of exploitation, prostitution and human trafficking.

“The committee was concerned that a significant number of the 1.13 million women overseas Filipino workers are exploited in domestic work and prostitution, often amounting to human trafficking, and that they are primarily engaged in unskilled and low-paid jobs and are separated from their families and children for long periods of time,” it said in a statement based on the findings of its review on Albania, Bhutan, France, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malawi, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Uruguay.

The findings contain positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the committee’s main concerns and recommendations.

Its report on the Philippines called on the government to “strengthen the legal protection of women OFWs, prosecute and sentence those who exploit and abuse them, including recruiters and raise awareness of women overseas workers about their rights.”

The committee also expressed concern “about the use by the State party of the Anti-Terror Act [2020] to legitimize acts against women human rights defenders, land and environment defenders and journalists, including ‘red-tagging’ as in the case of Nobel Prize laureate Maria Ressa, which resulted in intimidation, hate speech, threats, physical assault, harassment, arrest and detention”.

It asked the Philippines to “ensure that women human rights defenders and journalists, including Maria Ressa, and those advocating for land rights, environmental protection, indigenous women’s rights and rural women’s rights, could exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association without harassment, surveillance or undue restriction”.

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