Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East

UN passes resolution on violence against female migrant workers

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Dec 2 2011

Last week, the UN passed a resolution initiated by Indonesia and the Philippines which aims to improve the status of female migrant workers. The resolution primarily encourages multilateral cooperation to address and prevent the mistreatment of female migrant workers, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse in domestic positions secluded from society’s scrutiny. While the resolution does not lay out specific strategies to combat violence, it does invite nations to ratify and implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

But some Indonesian citizens and rights organizations question whether the country is more interested in “showboating” than in improving migrant conditions. To these critics, the well-timed resolution appeared more of a publicity stunt than a concentrated effort to care for its citizen’s abroad; in the wake of discontent with Indonesia’s management of migrant issues, further agitated by allegations that Indonesian diplomats complained about the stress of dealing with migrant workers, the government seemed in need of another revitalizing bout of lip-service.

Skeptics also note that Indonesia itself failed to legislate the migrant worker’s convention, and that the government’s generally irresolute history with migrant issues renders the motion somewhat hollow. Indonesia’s past endeavors to engage Gulf nations in particular have failed to produce substantial change, often because of Indonesia’s own dithering commitment. 

The Indonesian Permanent Mission to the UN stated that while the resolution has no legal teeth, it does provide the “platform for organizations within the UN, including the International Labor Organization, to arrange their policies.” Groups including Amnesty International still question the quality of action that can be taken when weak language sets expectations so low.

While UN legislation is renowned for its ambiguity, Indonesia can lead by example and use the resolution to guide its own policies. Indonesia's world-renowned NGO Migrant Care is following the nation's next steps closely, in the hopes of witnessing these proclaimed ideals transform into reality.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East