New UN Agreement Recognizes the Human Rights of Migrants
The Resolution of the 46th Session of the Commission on Population and Development recognized the centrality of meeting the needs of women and young people through migration policies and programs that respect and protect human rights.
In recent years, demographic patterns have shifted dramatically. Today, more women are migrating than ever before, representing nearly half of the total international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 to 80 percent. During the process of migration, women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly breaches of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including violence and sexual coercion.
In recognition of these realities, the Resolution urges Member States to “incorporate a gender perspective into all policies and programs on international migration,” and to “strengthen actions to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence, coercion, discrimination, trafficking in persons, and exploitation and abuse of women and girls.” Furthermore, the Resolution calls upon Member States to adopt or strengthen measures to prevent “discrimination, sexual harassment, violence and sexual abuse in the workplace, including in domestic work.”
Migrant women and adolescents are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to lack of access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health care. In some countries, young migrants who get pregnant or acquire a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV, face imprisonment or deportation.
The Resolution calls upon governments to “provide services that are particularly sensitive to the needs of individual women and adolescents…with particular attention to those who are victims of sexual violence.” It further calls upon Member States to provide migrants with access to sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, and implement measures to prevent violence. These services include emergency contraception, safe abortion where permitted by law, and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support. When health care services are available, migrants often have to pay more than permanent residents for health insurance.
The Resolution paid particular attention to the rights of young migrants, especially girls, recognizing that “young people, including young migrants, are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection because of social and economic factors and other inequities, including stigma and discrimination, gender-based and sexual violence, gender inequality and violations, and lack of accurate information on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and access to sexual and reproductive health, including HIV-related services.”
In addition, the Resolution encouraged governments to identify and review “HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence in order to eliminate them.” The United States and China recently repealed their own travel restrictions on people living with HIV. Such restrictions increase stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV.
The Resolution also calls upon governments to work to mobilize the resources required to realize the “migration, development, and human-rights related objectives” of the ICPD Programme of Action, and ensure that resources are used “in full alignment with the needs and priorities of developing countries.”
“This resolution comes at a critical moment,” said Doris Mpoumou, International Advocacy Officer. “The global debate on migration is largely focused on criminalizing migration, rather than exploring the reasons people migrate and the particular needs of migrants. This resolution was significant in that governments recognized the human rights of migrants, particularly their right to social and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, and access to services for the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.”