Migrants on #InternationalWomensDay : Stop gender-based violence –and its xenophobic instrumentalisation #IWD2016

InternationalWomensDay-portraitToday is International Women’ Day and in the light of the current political situation, the rights of migrant and refugee women receive particular attention. Several migrant organisations have issued statements today, addressing issues such as labor exploitation, subhuman wages and violence against women as well as calls for equal rights and empowerment. Some statements also distance themselves from what I would call the “false friends of women’s rights” that have been particularly vocal after the “Cologne attacks”, but actually use the “protection of our women” as a justification for Xenophobia and Islamophobia. Here is a collection of statements:

The Women and Global Migration Working Group (WGMWG) has released a call to “Speak out against xenophobia, racism and violence against women!” While denouncing violence against women in all forms, including the events in Köln, the WGMWG also strongly condemns

“the ‘othering’ of perpetrators of gender-based violence, such as happened in the reporting of widespread sexual attacks and harassment of women in central Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve 2015. In the immediate aftermath we witnessed a frighteningly xenophobic and racist reaction in the media and political commentary that led to physical attacks on migrant and refugee men in the name of ‘protecting women’.”

I am in full agreement; to cite an example the so-called “Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)” party group blatantly tried to instrumentalise the attacks from Cologne. When looking at their party programs, however, (there are upcoming elections in 3 German states) you find calls for putting an end to Gender Studies research and teaching, firing all Equal Opportunity Officer (“Frauenbeauftragte”), promoting “traditional” family values etc. Likewise, “Cologne” has become a rallying cry among, right-wing politicians, increasingly from Eastern European, to justify restrictive immigration measures and refusing refugees entry.

You can find the WGMWG statement here:


The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) has also issued a statement on “2016 International Working Women’s Day” called “Women Migrants, Rise Up for our Rights, Our Dignity, Our Future”.

IMA chairperson Eni Lestari poses the question:

“With the sustainable development goals crafted and passed by the world’s leaders in the United Nations, how sure are the women migrants that their voices will be heard, that their rights and welfare will be protected, and most importantly, they will be given the space to actively participate in pursuing these goals?”

She particularly blames neoliberal globalization for causing much misery to many women, especially migrant women, and intensifying discrimination and inequality not only in terms of gender but also of class, of race, and of age. The statement concludes with the call “Truly, it is only by coming together not only among us women but with our other marginalized and oppressed brothers can we pressure the leaders of this world in shaping a society rid of discrimination, abuse and violence.”

(no link available yet)

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) has issuedits statement under the heading “Migration bans do not protect the rights of women, only push them into taking more risky options”. It considers the common perception that strong border controls could be used as a measure to stop human trafficking as “misguided, ineffective and discriminatory”.

The statement focusses on migrant women domestic workers and calls for an end to restrictions placed on them in several countries. It also calls on concerned countries of origin to ensure the availability and accessibility of skills training before departure, to ensure that embassies in the countries of destination have trained female officers, and to open migration channels to more countries.

The full statement can be read here:


The International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) also celebrates International Women’s Day in general – amd domestic worker leaders in particular, some of whom are introduced on their website:



In addition, several international organisations have issued statements and messages.

For starters, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing reaffirms the organization’s “unwavering commitment to gender equality and empowerment”. He mentions “the notion of intersectionality” and elaborates “While gender and migration status are two key factors playing a role here, other factors such as age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, and ability, among others, should also be considered.” The full statement can be read here:



TO BE UPDATED – if you want your statement, event etc. included, just drop me a note.


UPDATE: Here you can find a Collection of articles from the European Parliament, focusing on Women refugees in the EU:





About Dr. Stefan Rother

Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute at the University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
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