Migration and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the ASEAN region and the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) were intensely discussed at the ASEAN Parliamentarians – Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Workshop on Migration Addressing SRHR held in Siem Reap, Cambodia from 23-25 October 2014.
Millions of people migrate annually from countries in both the ASEAN and the GMS mostly to work outside or in countries within the region. In Thailand alone, there are about 2.5 million migrants at any one time. Apart from the migrants in Thailand, there are hundreds of thousands more migrants that go in or out of the porous borders of the other countries comprising the GMS that also include Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Some 1.2 million Filipinos also leave the Philippines annually to seek work outside the country.
While problems beset migrants who have work permits in countries of destination, more problems are suffered by undocumented migrants in many of the ASEAN countries which include being jailed, given very low wages, placed in sub-human living conditions, and frequently being subjected to violations of human rights. Amidst these problems, it has been observed that SRHR including related issues such as trafficking in persons, HIV and AIDS and gender-based violence have become neglected in addressing migration.
IPPF ESEAOR and the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) jointly organised the workshop on 23 October 2014. The meeting was attended by participants – CSOs and Parliamentarians – from the GMS countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and from the Philippines and Indonesia.
The workshop’s objectives of the workshop were as follows:
-To reach a common understanding between and among parliamentarians and IPPF ESEAOR’s Member Associations (MAs) on the issue of migration from the perspective of SRHR and related issues including trafficking in persons, HIV and AIDS and violence against women and children;
-To craft a joint communiqué on migration addressing SRHR and related issues for dissemination to a wider audience;
-To familiarise with regional parliamentarian conference processes that address SRHR and related issues; and
-To agree among IPPF ESEAOR MAs in the ASEAN and GMS regions on concepts and ideas for possible joint action and project development.
On 24 October 2014, IPPF ESEAOR delegates attended as observers in the AFPPD’s Regional Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls and the Meeting of AFPPD Male Standing Committee on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls where IPPF ESEAOR delegates attended as observers.
On 25 October 2014, IPPF ESEAOR and the participating MAs – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – held a discussion to understand the link between migration and SRHR, and to undertake concrete measures that would address these issues and include them in the expanding coverage of IPPF ESEAOR Strategic Plan.
The report considers migration in the context of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues in the GMS.
-The scope of this report is regional: it examines the South and South East Asia Region migration trends but also the migration trends particularly in the GMS, which is the highlight of the report.
-Problems associated with migration are considerable especially if migrants remain undocumented and are associated with refugee settings. Among the most blatant problems that migrants suffer are the lack of sexual and reproductive health services, trafficking in persons, the spread of HIV and AIDS and violence against women and their children.
The challenges of migration in the context of SRHR issues require a new strategic approach to policy. Policy makers will need to take action to reduce the impact of social and economic changes on communities yet must simultaneously plan for migration. Critical improvements to the lives of millions are more likely to achieve where migration is seen as offering opportunities as well as challenges.
-A Joint Greater Mekong Sub-Region Parliamentarians – IPPF ESEAOR Communiqué was agreed upon during the workshop on migration addressing the SRHR issues and made 27 recommendations, including the creation of a regional strategy in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and the rest of the ASEAN on the provision of sexual and reproductive health and services (SRH) to migrants, on trafficking, HIV and AIDS, and violence against women and children.
In summary, the key message of this report is that migration in the GMS may not be just part of the ‘problem’ but can also be part of the solution. In particular, planned and facilitated approaches to human migration especially when dealing with SRHR issues can ease people out of situations of vulnerability. In light of this, policy makers in the region should consider the detailed evidence from this report in a range of areas, with the following of particular priorities:
1.Increase engagement with the ASEAN especially that there is a forthcoming economic integration by the ASEAN countries that will be completed in 2015;
2.Provide institutional and financial support on migration addressing SRHR and related issues such as trafficking, HIV and AIDS and violence against women and children to IPPF MAs in the ASEAN region and the GMS;
3.Initiate efforts to negotiate for grant funding and other types of support on migration and SRHR;
4.Initiate project proposal development; explore the possibility for Thailand’s ODA support; take-off from the RHAPSODY project implementation with respect to the provision of SRH services to Overseas Filipino Household Service Workers in Hong Kong; and
5.The IPPF ESEAOR Regional Director to explore with the MAs, as well as the respective governments, of China and Japan to include migration and SRHR in the design of their huge infrastructure and development assistance projects that would open up the East-West (Danang, Vietnam / Moulmein, Myanmar) Economic Corridor and the China (Yunnan) - Myanmar (Yangon) Transport Corridor.
The cost of inaction is likely to be higher than the costs of measures discussed in this report, especially if they reduce the likelihood of problematic displacement. Giving urgent policy attention to migration in the context of social and economic changes change now will prevent a much worse and more costly situation in the future.