[Statement] Protect all rights of all migrant workers! call to ASEAN to fulfill the promise for a truly people-centered ASEAN community! -OUTRIGHT


OutRight Action International, together with the undersigned organizations call on ASEAN leaders meeting in Malaysia for the 27th ASEAN Summit, to address the concerns of migrant worker particularly protecting LGTQ migrant workers from violence and discrimination.


ASEAN states have previously pledged in the 2007 ASEAN charter and the 2012 human rights declaration to protect all migrant workers and marginalized groups. Furthermore as signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ASEAN states have pledged to protect the right of everyone, everywhere.

When ASEAN governments launch the ASEAN Community and Post-2015 ASEAN Vision during the 27th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia, they will be committing to a ten year plan, until 2025, for a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible, and a truly people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEANi. This summit is an opportunity for them to reaffirm these principles and take concrete steps to protect this vulnerable group.

To ensure that ASEAN lives up to its stated goals, OutRight Action International and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups challenge the ASEAN Member-States to prioritize legislative reforms and to implement people-inclusive regional and national plans that address the issues of groups and sectors that fall between the cracks of policies, programs and services of government and of mainstream groups and sectors.
ASEAN governments have acknowledged the huge contributions of ASEAN migrant workersii to the national economies of ASEAN member states. Yet, because of disagreements between sending and receiving countries in ASEAN, there is:
• No agreement in the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) on protection mechanisms for migrant workers, and
• No ASEAN standard on labor protections, which subjects migrant workers to different laws and regulations in each ASEAN country.

Without these protections, all migrant workers are vulnerable to human rights violations. Those at greatest risk are migrant workers who experience a variety of forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or religion. They have little to no bargaining power. LGBT migrant workers are among the most vulnerable groups, because they are stigmatized. They face multiple forms of discrimination and abuse, which makes them one of the most crucial groups to protect within broader migrant worker communities.

Like other migrant workers, LGBT migrant workers primarily leave and seek work outside their country for economic reasons. Their remittances support their families and their economies back home. The ASEAN Post-2015 vision and plans of action must address the concerns of all ASEAN migrant workers, including ASEAN LGBT migrant workers.

The initial investigation of OutRight Action International showed that LGBT migrant workers experience high levels of abuse and discrimination because of who they are and are experiencing ill-treatment that has little to do with their work performance.

Generally speaking, LGBT migrant workers travel from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei to seek employment. Once there, they are vulnerable to being unfairly targeted because of laws in these countries that prohibit homosexuality, cross-dressing and gender non-conforming behaviours. In other words, LGBT migrant workers who look different are subject to mistreatment because they appear different.

OutRight Action International has learned that LGBT migrant workers are subjected to verbal abuse, humiliation, and even physical violence. Many have to suffer discrimination on a daily basis and are forced to remain silent. ASEAN leaders have not committed to labor protection standards and have no policies in place to prohibit discrimination and violence against migrant workers, including when this happens on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
LGBT people who migrate for employment reasons provide much needed services. ASEAN communities rely heavily on LGBT migrant workers, among others for domestic work, hairstyling, beauty salon services, construction work, plantation labor, cleaning, cooking and serving in food establishments.
NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs) that are set up to assist migrant workers in sending countries do
not have the training to address the needs of LGBT migrant workers. This is the same scenario where LGBT migrant worker are not receiving help from their Embassies in the receiving country. They have no access to complaint mechanisms, and if they do manage to file a complaint, NGOs and CSOs that are supposed to assist migrant workers in that process are often not fully equipped to provide LGBT migrant workers with services and assistance they would provide to other migrant workers.

There is no psychosocial support and no counselling for LGBT issues, such as isolation and fear of being exposed, denigrated and harmed. Like other migrant workers, who experience discrimination and violence from their employers or in their places of work, LGBT migrant workers are reluctant to report violations for fear of retaliation, such as losing their jobs or not getting paid.

For instance, a lesbian domestic worker was verbally abused by her employer because she wore men’s clothing. Her employment ended up being terminated earlier than her contract stipulated. She had no recourse to challenge the violation. A gay manager of a fast food restaurant reported that being forced to constantly live in fear of his sexual orientation being discovered was so stressful that he could not renew his contract, although his job performance earned him a promotion. Three lesbians with masculine gender expression were routinely questioned about their appearance, even though their job performance was good. Of the three, only one was able to continue working, on the condition that she change her clothing to appear feminine. Forced gender conformity amounts to mental abuse and causes suffering. It prevents LGBT migrant workers the right to work and the right to freedom to express one’s self.

OutRight Action International calls on ASEAN leaders to:
1. Ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) standards on migrant workers and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.
2. Enact laws and bilateral agreements between sending and receiving countries to ensure the rights of migrant workers will be protected in both countries.
3. Ensure safe and accessible reporting procedures for LGBT migrant workers who experience violence and discrimination and ensure investigation of these complaints.
4. Include LGBT migrant worker issues and needs in the programs and services offered by sending and receiving countries, such as information provision related to LGBT issues, counselling, regulation of employment agencies, welfare centers, integration assistance, emergency shelter, legal and medical services.
5. Ensure that their Embassies in receiving countries are knowledgeable to the issues and respectful of the rights of LGBT persons, including that they will provide the same quality of service and assistance to LGBT migrant worker as to other migrant workers.
6. Provide state funding and resources for the training and implementation of LGBT sensitive services by government agencies, NGOs and CSOs that work with migrant workers and on migrant worker issues.
7. Prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
8. Improve working conditions for LGBT migrant workers by
• Amending and repealing discriminatory laws that are used to criminalize persons on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and
• Denounce public statements and media messages that vilify LGBT persons and incite prejudice, discrimination and violence.

i http://www.asean.org/news/asean-­‐secretariat-­‐news/item/asean-­‐community-­‐vision-­‐2025-­‐2
ii http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2015/01/22/money-­‐sent-­‐home-­‐migrant-­‐workers-­‐major-­‐economic-­‐boost-­‐developing-­‐nations#sthash.bMhNJ5He.dpuf

All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – Malaysia
Arus Pelangi – Indonesia
ASEAN Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Caucus (ASC)
ASEAN Youth Forum
Asia – Africa Solidarity Indonesia
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA)
Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) – Malaysia
CamASEAN Youth’s Future (CamASEAN) – Cambodia
Colors Rainbow – Myanmar
Focus on Global South
FOCUS Philippines
Joint Action Group for Gender Equality
Justice for Sister – Malaysia
KAKAMMPI (Association of Overseas Filipino Workers and their Families) – Philippines
May Thida Aung (Ms.), PhD student, IHRP, Mahidol University – Thailand
North – South Initiative
Perak Women For Women (PWW) – Malaysia
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) – Malaysia
Project SEVANA South-East Asia
Sayoni – Singapore
Sisters in Islam (SIS) – Malaysia
South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA)
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) – Malaysia
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) – Malaysia


Project Coordinator, Asia & Pacific Islands Region

OutRight Action International
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 1505, New York, NY 10038 USA
Fax: +1.212.430.6060 Twitter: @OutRightIntl YouTube: LGBTHumanRights
Website: ww.outrightinternational.org FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/outrightintl

Contact information in the Philippines:
Mobile: +63.917.557.0405 | Skype: gcristobal-iglhrc

Unfold your COURAGE everyday! Watch & download for free “COURAGE UNFOLDS”
a video of Asian LGBT activism and the Yogyakarta Principles
(Burmese, Khmer, Mongolian, Chinese subtitles) http://vimeo.com/22813403

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