Eighty percent of migrant domestic workers, mostly women, in different parts of the world suffer abuse, Senator Sonny Angara reported on Wednesday.
“The experiences of our overseas workers are no longer humane. Majority of those being maltreated and abused are women-OFWs,” noted Angara, one of the authors of the Magna Carta of Women of 2009 or Republic Act 9710.
He said that OFWs risk maltreatment, physical and sexual abuse, even death just so they can provide for their families back home.
“We need to put a stop to this and make sure that their right to decent work is protected,” he added.
In recognition of the temporary nature of overseas work, Angara said the state shall exert all efforts to address the causes of out-migration by developing local employment and other economic opportunities for women.
Angara underscored the need to introduce measures to curb violence and forced and involuntary displacement of local women.
He called for the stronger implementation of the Magna Carta of Women—a comprehensive law that protects the rights of Filipinas—amid rising cases of overseas Filipino worker abuse, especially among women.
He cited a provision in the Magna Carta which states that the government should promote the rights and welfare of migrant women regardless of their work status, and protect them against discrimination in wages, and unfavorable work conditions.
However, despite being enacted for almost a decade, Angara lamented that there are still more female overseas workers who are engaged in unskilled labor.
Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, of the 2.2 million OFWs, 54% are Filipinas. Female OFWs were generally younger, with more than two-thirds (68%) aging 25 to 39.
More than half (56%) of the female OFWs were in elementary occupations such as domestic helpers and cleaners.
In the wake of the killing of Joanna Demafelis, who was found dead in a freezer, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa has estimated that 80% of overstaying OFWs are domestic workers--majority of whom have claimed abuse from employers.
The Magna Carta of Women mandates the designation of Gender Focal Point Officers in Philippine embassies and consulates who are primarily responsible in handling gender concerns of women migrant workers.
Additionally, under the law, the government should provide employment opportunities and promote entrepreneurship development of returning women migrant workers to help them establish local business.
Women migrant workers should also have the opportunity to undergo skills training, before taking on a foreign job, and possible retraining upon return so as to widen their career options.
The senator added that supervisory positions in government must achieve a 50-50 gender balance as mandated under RA 9710.
Data from the Civil Service Commission showed that men (57%) still outnumber women (43%) in the top level or decision-making positions in the government. This include the Undersecretary, Assistant Secretary, Bureau Director, Regional Director, Chief of Department Service and other officers of equivalent rank, all of whom are appointed by the President.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day which highlights the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, let us also keep in mind the struggles of our Filipina kababayans abroad. Let us all work together to save our own modern day heroes,” Angara said.
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought the creation of a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to strengthen mechanisms that would monitor the compliance and implementation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9710, also known as the Magna Carta of Women.
She filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1729 amending Section 40 of R.A. No. 9710 to provide for an oversight committee that is mandated to look into the law’s strict implementation and strengthen the mainstreaming of gender equality.
“Only through a consistent and conscious implementation of the Magna Carta of Women can government and Philippine society be truly rid of gender bias and the rampant misogynism that have presently reared their ugly heads in our midst once again,” she said.
“Only in this manner will we be able to counter the unapologetic exhibition of anti-women rhetoric that has dominated official government discourse since the start of the present administration,” she added, highlighting the persistent attacks against women under the Duterte regime.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party said it is everyone’s obligation to seek an end to violence, discrimination, and other forms of gender bias.
In the Philippines, LP president and senator Kiko Pangilinan said de Lima is one of the prominent faces of struggle for a society that still doesn’t value women and their contributions. Her incarceration for over a year now, and every day that passes by that she remains behind bars on baseless charges, are testimony that the fight for women’s rights remains uphill.
“It could be worse because we have leaders who order the military to shoot female rebels in the vagina, who mouth sexist remarks, and who insult women who challenge them,” he said.
“Together, let’s stoke the flames to make this world a better place for women, as we recognize them for being catalysts of change, displaying extraordinary mettle, strength, care, and love for their families, in their profession, and in society amidst the difficulties,” he said.