#India – Hidden spaces- Invisible workers #Vaw #Justice


KALPANA SHARMA, The Hindu , Jan 19,2013

Invisible world. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

The HinduInvisible world. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

TOPICS


The issue of violence perpetrated on domestic workers, largely women, remains mostly invisible and unaddressed.

The many conversations on violence against women that began on December 16 remain incomplete. We discuss the visible. We rarely mention the invisible or less visible, the violence inside closed doors, in private spaces, away from the public sphere. By this I don’t just mean the violence by family members. That is, in any case, shrouded in several impenetrable layers of silence. Apart from this, there is another form of violence, one that is largely accepted. Often the perpetrators of the violence can be women, even those who have themselves been at the receiving end of domestic violence.

This is the insidious form of violence that millions of domestic workers suffer each day in the homes where they work. It consists not just of physical or sexual attacks but of a lack of dignity, of lack of basic rights and of the absence of recognition that they deserve a fair wage for the work they do. We need to condemn and combat this hidden violence as much as we have now begun to talk about the violence on our streets.

This column has repeatedly taken up the cause of domestic workers because it is one of those under-the-radar issues that is somehow not addressed. The majority of domestic workers worldwide are women. In India, the official data puts their numbers at just seven million when it is evident that the actual number is many times more, closer to 90 million. And this figure does not take into account the children who are illegally employed for domestic work.

Worldwide, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an estimated 53 million people are employed in people’s homes. Over 80 per cent are women. Admittedly, this too is an underestimation. A new ILO report points out that, despite international attention being paid to the issue, little is being done. In 2011, after many years of campaigning by organisations that represented domestic workers, the ILO passed the Domestic Workers Convention (No 189). Yet two years later, the Convention has still not come into force because only a handful of governments — the Philippines, Uruguay and Mauritius — have ratified it. The Philippines has gone a step further by promulgating its own law on domestic workers giving them the same rights as other workers. Not so most other countries, including India, which is among the list of countries yet to ratify this convention.

Why is such a convention or a national law specifically addressing the problems facing domestic workers needed? Precisely because of their invisibility. They work under individually negotiated contracts, have no job security and can be fired at will. There is no regulation about their working hours or minimum wage. Nor do the women get the benefits of sick leave, maternity leave or a weekly day off. Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that they are not organised and, therefore, cannot resort to any kind of collective bargaining. A law would at least inform them of their rights and would make it clear to employers that, even if they continue to exploit them as they do today, they are wilfully breaking the law.

The ILO report titled “Domestic workers across the world: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection” brings out several disturbing statistics. For instance, more than half the domestic workers around the world have no limitation on the normal weekly hours of work, or get a weekly off, or get paid get paid a minimum wage. An estimated 15.6 million women working as domestics do not get maternity leave or cash benefits.

The central government has drafted a policy for domestic workers, one that will ensure that they come under the ambit of existing laws that relate to the rights of workers — such as the Minimum Wages Act, the Trade Union Act, Payment of Wages Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, Maternity Benefits Act, Contract Labour Act and Equal Remuneration Act. Karnataka was the first state to fix minimum wages for domestic workers, to accept that they were entitled to a weekly off and to ban children less than 14 years of age working as domestic workers. Of course, the implementation of this policy is another story but at least a beginning has been made.

There are many layers to the issue of violence against women. But as women’s groups have been repeatedly emphasising over the past weeks, several simple interventions can be made. I would suggest that one such step could be to implement a policy for domestic workers. Even though domestic workers now come under the ambit of the law on sexual harassment at workplace, as long as they continue to work as isolated, atomised individuals without other rights granted to workers in general, they will remain vulnerable to all forms of violence and exploitation.

If we can deal with these dark spaces in our society, where there is little value for the rights of the people who do thankless work, perhaps then we will be better placed to talk about the more visible forms of abuse and assault that have dominated public discussion and debat

UN wants prostitution decriminalized to help curb spread of HIV #sexwork


October 23rd, 2012 | News | 


By Gian C. Geronimo/GMANEWS - If the United Nations will have its way, soliciting sex or paying for it in the Asia and the Pacific region will no longer risk imprisonment.

In a recent report, the UN recommended the decriminalization of the world’s oldest profession to help curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

“Removing legal penalties for sex work assists HIV prevention and treatment programmes to reach sex workers and their clients,” the UN said in its report titled “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, known to condemn prostitution, cannot be reached for comment on the subject, as the organization’s secretariat said the bishops authorized to talk about the issue are out of town on official business. But at least one bishop has blamed prostitution for the spread of HIV and has urged a crackdown on the illicit livelihood.

The UN report makes the opposite argument. By legalizing prostitution, the government can make sex work safer, extend health services to sex workers and thus slow the spread of the virus.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said in a briefing Friday that it will leave the issue of legalization of sex work to the country’s legislators.

“We have no comment. We would rather leave it to our legislators,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte at a press briefing.

But Valte stressed that Philippine laws make prostitution in any form illegal. “Primarily, that’s illegal. Under our present laws that’s illegal which is why the LGUs are also in charge of cracking down and making sure that hindi lang doon sa establishments but rather people who traffic [are also apprehended].”

Susceptibility to HIV

The UN said the criminalization of sex-related jobs increases workers’ susceptibility to HIV by “fuelling stigma and discrimination, limiting access to sexual health services, condoms and harm reduction services; and adversely affecting the self esteem of sex workers and their ability to make informed choices about their health.”

The recommendation is also a move to stop the exploitation of sex workers and to give them basic rights by suggesting that their jobs, too, should have typical workplace standards in line with the law and government.

Decriminalization enables sex workers to organize within their communities and register their organizations, obtain identification documents so that they can fully access services and entitlements, engage in advocacy and respond to the health and safety needs of their peers,” the UN said.

The UN noted that, with the exception of New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia, all countries in Asia and the Pacific criminalize sex work or associated activities.

In the Philippines, for one, sex work and soliciting sex work are illegal, as well as the establishment of brothels.

According to the Revised Penal Code, vagrancy is an offense, with the code defining prostitutes as vagrants. Sex workers caught may be fined up to six months in prison under the code’s vagrancy provision.

Valte said the government is continuously fighting prostitution and trafficking in the Philippines. “It is a point of concern which is why the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) continues to work on improving ‘yung mga conviction when it comes to trafficking in persons. We continue to work with—or the member-agencies in ensuring na nababawasan at mawawala po ‘yung mga ganitong kaso.”

Condoms

The UN study said in the Philippines, despite the government’s support for efforts to promote condom use among sex workers, many people in the sex industry still steer clear of condoms for fear that it may be used by the police as evidence against them once they are arrested.

The UN report referenced a 2003 study that found that many street-based sex workers refused free condoms offered by outreach workers because of the police issue.

“Police impeded their access to HIV prevention services by confiscating condoms, using possession of condoms as evidence of sex work, or arresting them for vagrancy,” the UN report said.

Ways to decriminalize sex work

The UN listed ways to decriminalize sex work.

“To enable the sex industry to be regulated as a legitimate form of work requires removal of the range of laws that criminalize activities associated with sex work, including removal of offences relating to soliciting, living on the earnings of sex work, procuring, pimping, the management and operation of brothels, and advertising,” it said.

Its report also debunked claims that countries in Asia and the Pacific where sex work is illegal have low HIV rates and prevented the epidemic to spread among sex workers and their clients.

In fact, the study said evidence suggests areas that decriminalized sex work have “very high” condom use rates and increased access to sexual health services. —

with Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK/RSJ/HS, GMA News

Filipino Supreme Court suspends cybercrime law


Main Article Image

2:13pm | 9 October 2012 | by Michael Skinner

The Filipino Supreme Court today issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The TRO comes on the heels of large scale demonstrations, Blackout Tuesday, both online and offline from citizens and journalists who claim the new law is tantamount to a new “cyber authoritarianism.” Access joined with Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA.ph) in calling on lawmakers to repeal the law, and on Tuesday delivered an open letter to the government calling on them to junk the law. This letter was backed by the 13,000 of people from over 100 countries who signed a petition urging for the law to be taken off the books.

In light of the recent decision, Access applauds the Supreme Court in its decision to stay the law while it determines whether it violates civil liberties. We will continue to push lawmakers to repeal the law, or at the very least craft significant amendments that protect the rights of Filipinos.

As PIFA stated in response to the court’s ruling, “PIFA invites all netizens to consistently participate in its efforts to pressure our legislators to repeal RA 10175. Let us make them know that we will not elect, tolerate, nor bow down to anyone who has no qualms in trampling upon our basic human rights offline and online.”

As it stands now, the Supreme Court’s suspension will last 120 days while critics gather the evidence needed for oral arguments on January. The government on the other hand will have 10 to 15 days to respond to the petitions with its position. This will be a test for President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who was supportive of the law and of the controversial libel provision. Though the court has issued the temporary order, the fate of the law and of the Filipino citizens still remains in the air.

The law, which was modeled on provisions from the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, falls short of its predecessor due to weak and sometimes vague language. Even lawmakers who signed the bill are now having doubts, indicating that review and amendments are be necessary.

At the heart of the debate is the application to the country’s stringent libel laws to digital communications. Facebook posts, emails, and even text messages are subject to scrutiny under the new legislation. Supporters claim that these new provisions will help combat cyber bullying, but critics suggest that the laws could be used to suppress political dissent by ushering in a new era of “cyber authoritarianism”.

In order to enforce these new rules online, the law also allows law enforcement officers to collect and review Internet traffic data on users effectively creating a mechanism for warrantless surveillance of the entire internet population. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) Chair Geronimo Sy likened the surveillance to an “online version of CCTV,” and stressed that the government would only access the data to prosecute “bad elements”.

Thousands of citizens and journalists, as well as international organizations, have protested and petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down the law. Activists organized “Blackout Tuesday” the same day the SC handed down the TRO. While thousands of protesters hit the streets in front of the Filipino Supreme Court, thousands more mobilized an online response. Websites, social media profiles and blogs all went black on Tuesday in a showing of solidarity, much like the SOPA and PIPA protests online in the US earlier this year. “Considering how much there has been a public outcry about this law…It is judicious of the judiciary to issue a Temporary Restraining Order, ” Said Human Rights Commissioner Coco Quisumbing. The widespread response has had an immediate effect on lawmakers who are seeking to distance themselves from the controversial law.

Access will continue to work with PIFA and other organizations to repeal this law. While today’s ruling is a step in the right direction, the court could still come back and allow the law to come into effect. That is why we must be vigilant in pressuring the Filipino government to stand up for the rights of it’s citizens and scarp this law for good.

Junk the “Green Economy”- Filipino Women’s Groups to Rio +20


Filipino Women’s Groups Urgent Message to the

Philippine Delegation to Rio+20

As women who primarily carry both the privilege and burden of social reproduction and care for the human family and ecology, and participate as well in activities that drive societies and economic production, we express our deep concern at the debates and discussions assessing the last two decades since the first Earth Summit and the solutions being forwarded to address the conditions of crises we are caught in today.

The Green Economy

A major push coming from UN agencies, corporations and North governments has taken the form of the Green Economy – the framework that will supposedly address crisis conditions in water and food, energy, the economy, climate and the environment. But we find that behind this cunningly coined concept, is the clear intent by neoliberal forces, primarily corporations, to monetize and commercialize nature, thereby addressing the current crisis of capitalism and pursuing goals of extraction, unhampered growth, mindless consumerism,  wealth accumulation and monopolization.  This is simply a further elaboration of the ideological framework of neoliberalism that is now being extended to nature.

We are angered that in the face of serious environmental crisis threatening the survival of the world’s disadvantaged peoples, big business and North governments are exploiting the situation to protect their own endangered commercial and business interests. Not only are they repackaging or green-washing their profit-seeking and continued capital accumulation. They are actually proposing to reach deeply and widely into the environment and natural resources for capital, on top of their financial capital and exploitation of human beings as capital, and seeking the mantle of the United Nations and high-level government commitment for the same. In truth, this direction is already manifested in such mechanisms as carbon trading and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) where the atmosphere and forests are given price tags just like other capital goods, and can be traded and sold in the market for profit.

Two decades after the first Earth Summit, we are in greater crisis than before and in deeper levels of impoverishment and deprivation, inequity and injustice. How much longer should we bear this profit-hungry and growth driven route to development that has brought us to these situation of multiple crises today? How much longer should we accept the patriarchal and “macho” responses in the form of fast, large-scale, highly technological systems (even those labelled “green”)?  How long will it take people to realize that this social and economic arrangement is the main culprit behind the fast depletion of the world’s natural resources and the potentially catastrophic warming of the earth? Today’s crises require a critical questioning of systems and structures and building alternatives along just, democratic, non-discriminatory, equitable and sustainable lines.

Commodification of land and water have already resulted to large scale displacement of food systems and peoples’ culture and means to survive; further marketization and privatization of nature will translate to grabbing access, control and care of the world’s still unexploited resources in private and corporate hands. Women in the Philippines and South countries are in the forefront of food production but have the least access and control over land and other resources. In practically all countries, especially of the global South, women make up the greater majority of people living in poverty. While commodification can lead to the “visibility” of the labor of nature in the economy, this process will ultimately suffer the same fate as the commodification of  the labor power of toiling peoples, iand women’s labor and bodies  in particular.

The Green Economy totally veers away from the spirit and substance of the agreement in Rio in 1992.

It contradicts women’s perspective on economy and ecology, which we believe are mutually enhancing systems for sustainable development, not sources of capital and profit.

It is also alarming that agencies of the UN, and some donor and funding agencies have apparently partnered with big business, including those with environmentally destructive records, in promoting this track of commoditizing nature. We continue to fight against these corporations that live on human exploitation and natural resource extraction and have destroyed the lives of peoples, especially the poor and marginalized.  We are disturbed that alongside talk of rights, empowerment, democracy and development, these agencies also support moves of “greening” resource extraction and fail to question the undiminished privileging of and pursuit of growth. The Philippine government must diligently examine and assess these forms of development aid, against human rights and particularly women’s rights standards.

“Gender and women” as add-ons

We strongly emphasize a widely accepted fact — that women constitute half of the Philippine and the world’s population, doing both productive and reproductive work and have key roles in environmental protection and renewal. This has been widely affirmed, yet the negotiating text (as of 22 May 2012) marginalizes and trivializes women’s rights and gender equality.

It ignores the various forms of violence and abuse inflicted upon women by the patriarchy in capitalist systems that takes advantage of the unpaid care labor women largely render, and their generally subordinated position that manifests, among others, in their low wage levels, limited employment opportunities, job insecurity, and inadequate to utter lack of social benefits. The adverse effects of these conditions on the basic and reproductive health of working women are well known, and are further aggravated by the poisoning of our air and water resources by dirty energy, and exposure to various toxic substances such as GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers by which corporations exploit nature beyond its carrying capacity and allow them to profit more.

We stress the accountability of the Philippine as a signatory to the wide-ranging Beijing Platform of Action, and a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol. We have campaigned successfully to localize the CEDAW through our own Magna Carta of Women. It is a basic principle in human rights-based approaches, which the Philippine government subscribes to, that there must be no retrogression in the legal obligation of states parties to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.  The watering down of women and gender equality issues and concerns in the negotiating text is clearly a retrogression and a violation of what the Philippine government has legally committed to, internationally and domestically, not only in respecting and promoting women’s rights but ensuring the enjoyment of the very same.

Another fundamental rights-based principle is full and meaningful participation. We assert this right, and further seek increasing women’s informed participation through accessible, well-resourced mechanisms enabling of the capacities of women and their organizations. Women should be part of any effort to change society, from direction and agenda-setting to implementation. We push for broad-based citizen’s participation within the frame of a new politics that is linked to people’s movements and advances innovative and transformative practices in dealing with crises.

We believe, together with many other women from the South, that there are many alternatives to corporate-led approaches in dealing with the multiple crises we now all face. We reject these market-oriented, patriarchal approaches, and reiterate  several of the points raised by the Women’s Major Group during the Asia Pacific Regional Preparatory for Rio+20 held last year in Seoul, Korea, that  –

“…we  are  working  to  realize “sustainable  economies”  that  are  gender  just  and  enable  long-term  social  and  wellbeing  outcomes  for  present and future generations, especially marginalized groups such as indigenous, ethnic and sexual minority groups.

“As  women  comprise  half  the  world’s  population  and  also  count  among  the  poorest,  a  “sustainable economy”  must  recognize  women’s  paid  and  un(der)paid  contributions  to  economic  production,  must generate  sustainable  livelihoods  by  which  women  can  realize  the  full  enjoyment  of  their  human  rights, including  sexual  and  reproductive  rights,  and  prevent  all  forms  of  discrimination  and  violence  in women’s exercise of their economic rights and co-stewardship of the earth’s resources. Central to this is women’s  unmediated  right  to  access,  own,  control  and  benefit  from  productive  resources  and  assets, which  includes  land,  water,  seeds,  energy  sources,  livestock,  financial  resources,  public  subsidies  and appropriate technologies.

“…women  farmers  must  be  recognized  as  co-managers  of  community  resource  bases  and  co-

decision-makers in determining the use of natural resources and the distribution of benefits arising from

them.

“We further seek from our governments a  commitment  to  the  rapid  reduction  and  elimination  of  toxic  substances  and  highly  hazardous pesticides and fertilizers, while steadily phasing-in non-chemical approaches.

“…as  marginalized  and  excluded  groups,  women  bear  the  harshest  impacts  of  the  current  climate crisis,  including  increased  ecological  and  economic  displacement.  States must  address  the  gender-

differentiated  impacts  of  climate  change  while  ensuring  greater  and  more  meaningful  participation  of women in the climate deliberations and outcomes, and in adaptation and mitigation strategies.”

Our lives and the lives of future generations in the world are at stake in the the discussions in Rio and all the other discourses on the environment.

Our calls and demands:

1.     Junk the “Green Economy” as the framework for addressing the crises in food, water, energy, the economy and the environment, and delete all references to it in the Rio+20 outcome document;

2.     Foster and build new socio-economic and political systems that reject growth as the sole parameter of development and puts premium on the equitable distribution of wealth and resources in the context of the earth’s endangered carrying capacity; respects, protects and fulfils human rights; and recognizes and ensures, at the heart of all economic, social and political development goals, gender-fair responsibility for the critical role of social reproduction and care labor in the development and the future of human society and our planet;

3.     Genuinely integrate women’s sentiments, lived experiences, voices, issues and demands in the Rio+20 outcome document, resisting the tendency towards retrogression, and in accordance with the Beijing Platform for Action as well as the normative standards and legal obligations established by the international bill of human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Women’s Human Rights Convention or the CEDAW.

4.     Ensure and expand spaces/processes for the full,  informed, empowering participation and engagement of women’s movements, especially marginalized women and their organizations

5.     Put in place mechanisms for accountability and sanctions to meaningfully realize gender justice and climate justice.

###

SIGNATORIES (15 June 2012)

 

National/Local Organizations:

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Alliance of Progressive Labor- Women (APL Women)

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

Freedom from Debt Coalition Women’s Committee (FDC WC)

Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)

Kalayaan Philippines

Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigenos (KUMPAS)

Koalisyon Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP)

Makabayan Pilipinas

Migrante International

Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)

Partido ng Mangagawa (Labor Party – Philippines)

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)

Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)

SANLAKAS

SARILAYA

Society of Transexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)

Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)

Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc.  Manila Office

Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB)

Women’s Dayoff

World March of Women Pilipinas

Regional Organizations

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATWP)

Endorsed by:

Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)

 

Individual Signatories

Rebecca Lozada
==============================

==========================================
Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc. (WLB)
Room 305 College of Social Work and Community Development Building
Magsaysay Avenue, University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines 1101
E-mail addresses: wlb@smartbro.net or womenslegalbureau@yahoo.com
Telefax number: (63-2) 921-4389
Skype ID: womenslegalbureau