Macro-Economic Exploitation and their Impact on Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Girls: Issues, Responses and Challenges

by Aurora Javate De Dios, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 1998

I. Introduction

One of the greatest ironies of this century is that while Asia has achieved progress in terms of economic growth and advancement in the standards of human rights, we have at the same time seen the persistence of practices, attitudes and behavior that continue to subordinate and oppress women and children. Despite the many notable conferences that worked to ensure women’s human rights in this century such as the Beijing Conference on Women, the Human Rights Conference in Vienna and the Population and Development Conference in Cairo and the Social Summit in Copenhagen, women’s equality has yet to be realized in many countries of the region. The “Asian economic miracle” was heralded as the product of macro-economic policies that seemed so successful for a time until the bubble burst in 1997. These same macro economic policies caused untold suffering to the marginalized sectors especially women and children. Perhaps the most telling evidence of women’s continuing marginalization and unequal status has been their pervasive commodification and sexual exploitation all across the region and beyond. Globalization of the economy also meant globalization of the sexual exploitation of women and children as they maybe purchased and sold in the market as part of “tradable goods.”

This presentation will trace how the dramatic globalization of the sex industry and its marketing of Asian women and children became integral to the opening of markets and economies. Facts and figures on the magnitude and forms of sexual exploitation will be cited. It will likewise attempt to demonstrate that the macro economic ideology of liberalization, has resulted in the destitution and erosion of the livelihood and life support systems of hundreds of thousands of rural and urban poor women a great number of whom support families. It will in the last section illustrate through the programs of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women how survivors and NGO partners are responding to challenges posed by the globalization of the sex industry.

In order to fully understand how sex trafficking is related to macro-economic policies, we need to understand how it evolved historically and what are its contemporary features.

First, although trafficking has been historically with us for ages, its magnitude, present forms and impact today are far more alarming and disturbing that at any time in the past. The selling of human beings for slavery brought 12 million slaves into the New World from the 16th –19th centuries. In contrast, in just a decade, an estimated 30 million women and children have been trafficked from Asia alone (UNICRI, 1998). With over 120 million (ILO, 1996) moving around the world as migrants, refugees, tourists, immigrants, opportunities for trafficking people for illegal migration and sexual exploitation are greater than ever. Women and children in particular are trafficked for a variety of purposes but mainly and visibly for sexual exploitation in its varied forms – for brothel prostitution, for military rest and recreation, for sex tourism, the bride trade including child marriages, pornography and bonded labor.

Second, in the past, organized trafficking of women and children have been confined mostly in Europe and North America but present day trafficking affects every major region of the world either as source, destination or transit point countries. This massive movement is facilitated by organized syndicates like the Yakuza, Snakeheads, and Mafia in conjunction with layers of intermediaries from private entities to corrupt government and law enforcement functionaries who gain from this trade of human beings. Largely integrated into mainstream economic sectors such as “adult entertainment”, sex tourism, prostitution and pornography many of which are either legal of tolerated in many countries, trafficking operations rake in billions of dollars in profits at the expense of women and children.

Third, while trafficking in the past was carried out mainly through the physical movement of its prey usually by force, present day trafficking has a broader repertoire of recruitment and entrapment methods including deception, enticement, false promises and coercion for a variety of purposes including prostitution, bonded labor, pornography, bride market, sex tourism and even false adoptions. The use of new information technologies have facilitated the mass and global marketing of women and children for the developing countries and depressed economies as sexual commodities to the more affluent countries with a growing market demand for sexual services. These media present unique and pernicious means through which images of real women and children are marketed in unprecedented and dehumanizing ways without threat of arrest or any regulation.

Fourth, government interventions in the past were prompted by the need to curb trafficking among other to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. Presently, while the spread of AIDS pandemic is a major concern of governments, civil society particularly NGOs and survivors groups view trafficking as more than just a health problem but involves serious human rights violations with devastating physical, health and psychological impacts on the victims with long ranging social and economic costs to society as a whole. For government authorities, the involvement of criminal syndicates as well as the expansion of irregular migration across borders are considered major issues.

Fifth, while trafficking in the past was lucrative, trafficking especially for purposes of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation has become a mega-business some aspects of which are closely integrated in mainstream business interests like tourism, labor recruitment, hotel and airline operations, leisure and entertainment businesses and the like. Mainstream media and the new technologies are new profitable ventures capitalizing on women’s and children’s bodies. In the US alone, income disclosed by the “adult” entertainment industry amounts to $10 billion (Hughes, 1999).

II. Magnitude of Trafficking in the Asian Region

In trying to determine the extent and magnitude of sex trafficking of women and girls in the region, a few important considerations have to be made.

First, the clandestine character of trafficking make it very difficult to establish definite figures as many trafficked women and girls are kept in captivity and sexual slavery. Those who manage to escape may not be willing to tell their stories due to fear of stigmatization or backlash or both. With no support services and programs and gender sensitive law enforcement and welfare officials who can assist them in their time of crisis, the victims are unlikely to report such cases.

Secondly, it is important to note at the outset that we need to recognize and acknowledge that many adult women in prostitution start out as child prostitutes and that we are dealing with one and the same sex industry that has given rise to the demand for the sexual services of both women and children. The Stockholm Conference on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children correctly points out that those who use and abuse women are likely to be the same abusers and users of children.

The Asia Pacific has emerged as a locus of trafficking movements over the last twenty years when the infrastructure for massive prostitution was introduced by US military rest recreation in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Korea and Japan. In the case of Japan, what is historically referred to as “prostitution culture” during the samurai days was translated into a vast entertainment industry catering to the weary and overworked “sarariman” (Yayori, 1999). Estimates vary widely especially between NGOs and government agencies but there is consensus that the problem is big enough to merit urgent and coordinated action locally and internationally. Almost all countries in the region have large numbers of women and children in prostitution a large number of whom have been trafficked mostly concentrated in big cities where so-called adult entertainment establishments such as bars, karaoke clubs, strip joints, massage parlors are located. Streetwalkers ply the dark streets of the cities awaiting customers late into the night. They are found as well near US bases and other military encampments and port areas as well as in areas where large development projects are going on.

It must be pointed out too that although sex trafficking which is the transport, purchase and sale of women and girls for purposes of prostitution, bride trade, pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation through deceit, coercion, enticements, false promises has been happening across countries, this does not preclude the existence of internal trafficking as well. The huge local market for sexual services in all of the countries in the region show that there are different forms , institution and practices that justify and reinforce sexual exploitation which are all based on the assumption of the subordination of women by men and their sexual availability and accessibility in providing sexual services to men.

There are at least four regional clusters or flashpoints of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the region: the Mekong area, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.

In the Mekong region, the economic prominence and prosperity of Thailand its geographical proximity to Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam through their shred borders makes it inevitably, the center of this trafficking of women and children. The Director of the Venereal Disease Control Division , Dr. Anuphong Chitvarakorn estimated an increase in sexual establishments such as brothels, go-go bars, massage parlors and other business offering sex for sale, from 5, 736 in 1994 to 8,431 in 1999 inspite of the economic crisis. The total number of women in these establishments is 66,001 while men accounted for about 3,138. It was noted that child prostitutes had risen from 4.4% last year to 5.3% this year or an estimated 12,000. (Bangkok Post, August 3, 1999). About 4.6 million local Thai men and 500,000 foreigners use Thai women and girls in prostitution.

In Cambodia alone, according to the NGOs and UNICEF, there are as many as 20,000 children trapped in systems of prostitution, majority of whom are girls. It is estimated that an alarming 35% of these are between ages 12-17 years old. Recent NGO studies reveal that over half of those in prostitution were coerced into the trade and 86% said they were deceived or sold by people they knew. (Eisner, UNICEF, 10 October 1999). Cambodia has one of the fastest growing incidents of AIDS numbering about 180,000 according to Kaarina Immonen of UNDP (17 September 1999, Reuters).

An estimated 20,000-30,000 Burmese women and girls are prostituted in Thailand, many of them have been abducted from the villages of ethnic minorities. Those that were arrested and deported, 50%-70% have been found to be HIV positive.

Due to the feminization of migration in the Philippines, many women migrants are lured into accepting non-existent jobs and into sex-related occupations and trafficking situations. In all 73 embassies and consulates, trafficking for prostitution, illegal labor and for bride trade purposes were noted by Philippine embassy officials (Report to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, 1998). Filipinas are trafficked as mail order brides in Australia and the US for prostitution in Greece, Nigeria, Hong Kong and Japan. Within the Philippines, an estimated 300, 000 women are in prostitution and around 30,000 children in prostitution.

In the East Asian region, prostitution is booming in China mainly in the big cities in thinly disguised brothels, hairdressing salons, karaoke parlors, teahouses and hotels. A distinct and disturbing phenomenon called bride trafficking within China itself has been noted by NGOs and government entities. The big demand for brides has also led traffickers to kidnap and lure women and girls form Vietnam, Laos and other neighboring countries to meet this demand.

Japan hosts the biggest number of sex industry establishments mostly concentrated in the big cities. Over 150,000 non-Japanese women in prostitution mostly Thai, Filipino, East European (Russian, Ukrainian) and Latin American women. In one so-called “sex zones” in Tokyo measuring .34 sqm, 3,500 bars, soaplands, loverbanks, sex telephone clubs, peep shows, strip theaters and a host of other sex-oriented establishments. (CATW 1997). A particularly disturbing trend in Japan has been the increase in teenage prostitution called “enjo kosai” meaning “patron relationship with high school girls”.

Japan also hosts the biggest pornography industry in Asia, some of which are the most violent, and extremely misogynist images of women and girls. About 30% of the world’s pedophile and child pornography sites are on the Japanese sites already down from 80% in September 1998, according to Guardian Angels, a Japanese NGO working against child prostitution and pornography (Kyodo, 14 October 1999). Mainstream media such as some newspapers, anime comic books, video games and catalogues is also replete with pornographic images. Promotional materials such as tissue papers, street posters, flyers in the mail inviting men to use prostitute women and girls are part of the daily environment in Japan. (CATW, 1997).

There are an estimated 40,000 prostituted children in Taiwan many of whom come from ethnic minority groups.

Around the military bases in Korea, there are 18,000 registered and 9,000 unregistered prostitutes. While prostitution seems to be illegal, it is tolerated in the form of escort girls, cabaret shows, massage parlors and even in show window prostitution.

In the South Asian region, India and Pakistan appear to be the focal point for the massive trafficking of women and girls from Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma and even Bhutan. In India alone, estimates are around 2.3 million women in prostitution a quarter of whom are minors in over 1,000 red light districts and brothels all over the country. This big number of sex establishments has given rise to a great demand for women and girls for prostitution, hence the massive cross-border trafficking from Nepal and Bangladesh. Over 5,000 girls from Nepal are trafficked to Pakistan in the last 10 years continuing at the rate of 200-400 women monthly. In 1994, authorities noted 2,000 Bangladeshi women and girls were trafficked to six major cities in India. (CATW, 1997).

Sex trafficking has devastating impacts on its victims. Thousands have reported having been beaten, tortured and subjected to the most inhuman sexual abuse by clients, pimps and traffickers. The result has been severe physical and psychological harm including being infected with venereal diseases and HIV-AIDS, pelvic inflammatory diseases; trauma and psychological depression bordering on suicidal and homicidal tendencies; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); drug and alcohol abuse, malnutrition, multiple unsafe abortions and in the long term, cervical cancer and infertility. (Hughes 1999; Hotaling 1999; Giobbe 1999; BUKLOD 1997). Underlying the ideological bases for sexual exploitation is the patriarchal assumption that men must have sex at all costs and that women and girl must provide the sexual services. Endemic to the whole enterprise of sexual exploitation is racism and sexism and the promotion of sex discrimination as poor, marginalized, colored women and children from the third world and from the marginalized sectors of societies are targeted for exploitation. The harm already inflicted by these oppressive conditions is aggravated by the lack of political will to address these issues at every level including internationally as well as the indifference of society in general in always blaming the victims for their plight. But the core issue remains unchallenged and unquestioned male entitlement to sex whenever and with whomsoever they want to have it.

Macro Economic Policies That Impact on the Situation of Women and Girls

Globalization of markets and production has both negative and positive effects for women. On the positive side, increased trade and investment, the growth of tourism, information based technologies, export manufacturing thereby increasing economic opportunities for women. On the other hand, globalization along with economic liberalization, which is its main pillar, has been known to induce unemployment, deterioration in real wages, structural adjustments, cutbacks in social spending including health, education, housing and others. Competing foreign investments, developing countries are virtually engaged in a “race to the bottom” in offering lower wages. In this increased market competition, massive restructuring of companies have led to closures and lay-offs. For women workers, part-time, temporary and so-called “flexible arrangements” that offer no job security and a minimum if not existent labor standards have become the norm rather than the exception.

In many countries of the Third World, globalization has also seen the increase of migration flows particularly of women towards the high growth economies within the Asian region, and the Middle East countries. This “feminization of migration” principally for domestic services numbered about a million in the early 1990s in Asia and the Middle East. By the end of 1995, there were 152,000 overseas domestic workers in Hong Kong and over 80,000 in Singapore. Japan’s accommodation of migrant labor principally took the form of “entertainers” mostly women. While undeniably contributing to the survival of families and contributing immensely to the economies of the sending countries, migration especially women has had its own social costs.

Foremost of these is the tremendous abuse including physical, sexual and emotional abuse experienced by women overseas workers while on the job as domestic workers or entertainers. These gender specific jobs are socially shunned, lowly paid which the women nationals themselves will not take. The vulnerability factors in these employment situation is compounded by the privatized context of work, the lack of labor and social security benefits and human rights standards ensuring the protection of workers. Added to this is the absence of any legal framework to prosecute cases of abused involving migrants.

The problems and issues associated with the economic impact of globalization have been exacerbated by the financial and economic crisis of 1997. The Asian “economic miracle” which has led to double digit growth in many countries in East and Southeast Asia suffered its biggest setback so far. By early 1998, Asia currency rates such as the baht, ringgit, rupiah plummeted to unprecedented low levels resulting in factory and business closures followed inevitably by massive job losses and unemployment and the rise in prices of consumers goods and services. All these not only created economic problems but exacerbated social tensions and political instabilities in the region.

In Indonesia, Korea and Thailand, unemployment rates have doubled. In Korea, unemployment rose from 2.3% in October 1997 to 6.7% in March 1998. In Indonesia, unemployment rates reached as high as 10% while Thailand’s unemployment rate is expected to reach 7% (Ghosh, 1999). Women workers in the low technology, labour intensive export industries like garments and semi-conductors were the first to be laid off.

The economic crisis likewise exacerbated the problem of irregular migrant trafficking, Many labor importing countries such as Malaysia have taken drastic moves to deport undocumented migrant workers. Malaysia has already repatriated, sometimes forcibly over half a million of its 1.7 million foreign workers many of whom are Filipinos, Indonesians and South Asians. Thailand has already deported close to 100,000 aliens in addition to 300,000 irregular workers it intends to repatriate. In 1997, South Korea already 49,569 undocumented workers. The retrenchment of overseas employment which in recent years have become overwhelmingly female with a ratio of 22.1 in the Philippines, 3:1 in Indonesia and 3:2 in Sri Lanka, have severely affected women and their families.

These grim statistics affect women directly and indirectly because they themselves are workers, overseas contract workers or are dependents of laid off workers and migrant workers. When taken together, policies towards a more open economy as exemplified by privatization and liberalization, they result in wide ranging impacts on the lives of women and their families. They influence among other: women and girls’ health and safety, educational attainment, income, employment, working conditions, family relationships, migration decisions, etc. Women are more likely to lose their jobs than men and the rate of women’s unemployment in some countries were found to have been four times the rate of male unemployment (Sparr, 1999). Working conditions for women also deteriorate in that protections and benefits provided by law such as day care, maternity benefits are no longer extended because of “flexibilization”.

Many women are turning to the informal sector such as vending, washing, part-time domestic service and even engage in prostitution just to be able to ensure their families’ survival. Women are left to manage dwindling resources for food, health care and education often reducing expenditures on food, health and education as a coping mechanism. Many times this leads to girl children dropping out of school in order to help in the house chores while their mothers eke out a living in the informal sector. Very often too, girl children are required by their parents to help out through flower vending, beggary and the like. These exposes young children particularly girls to the dangers of sexual exploitation by pimps, elder street children who may either abuse them or lead them to the sex trade in the streets. Where there are no other economic recourse nor social safety nets to tide families over, women have been known to sell their sexual services. Data from BUKAL an organization helping prostitutes show an increasing number of young girls out in the streets at night to seek male clients.

Of the 250 million children in the world who work under “exploitative and hazardous conditions and face injury, illness and even death”, Asia has the biggest share at 61%. Domestic service is the most common activity of girls as they enter the world of work (Del Rosario, 1999:103). These types of jobs are risky for young girls as they are also often subjected to harassment and sexual abuse. Often, after the experience of abuse, they can easily be lured and gravitate into the streets to engage in child prostitution. Lack of jobs and opportunities especially after they have stopped schooling drive children from rural to urban center where they join thousands of children who are easy prey to syndicated operations of pimps and traffickers catering to sex tourists and brothels. The combined factors of poverty, lack of education and economic opportunities and the subordinate status of women including girl children have conspired to intensify the sexual exploitation of children for prostitution and sex tourism. The phenomenon of sex tourism is a direct result of the unequal economic levels of development between the high growth economies and the developing countries. The enhanced purchasing power of foreigners enable them to buy sexual services of children whom they often regard as being “safer” from STDs and HIV-AIDS infection.

In the case of migrant women workers, faced with possible dismissals from their jobs or the freezing of their wages such as Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Singapore, going home does not solve the problem. In the Philippines for instance, female unemployment soared to 15.2% in April 1998. (Alcid, 1999:59). Where women can find no other economic recourse, they may choose to stay illegally which increases their vulnerability to traffickers who then coerce them to engage prostitution. As overstayers, they are subject to roundups, arrests, detention as well as deportation. Worse, women workers may have to settle for the worst types of jobs under the very oppressive working conditions such as the lower than minimum wage rates, longer working hours with no breaks with no health benefits.

In an attempt to prolong their stay, and under pressure to provide for their families, women workers will have to tolerate more abuse and exploitation. For instance, Filipinas working in bars in Japan take on the jobs of retrenched workers and do cleaning and dishwashing to cut on labor costs. In some cases according to the entertainers themselves, bar owners require a quota of 30 customers nightly and to go out with customers for sex at least three times a week. Employers in the entertainment businesses in Japan and Korea have required women entertainers to “dare, bare and go all the way” to increase their competitive edge over the establishments over shrinking markets for entertainment. (Alcid, 1999:59). Even as the economic crisis is prompting governments to deport overseas women workers and tighten migration flows, the reality if that they still need women workers for the low paying jobs that no national will assume. The demand for such jobs will continue as a result can lead to more trafficking of women and girls.

Ensuring the Core Human Rights of Women and Children: Interventions, Lessons and Challenges

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is an international feminist network of over 300 organizations and groups promoting the human rights of women and children by combating sexual exploitation in all its forms particularly in prostitution, trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. Our networks in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe have evolved programs, lessons and experiences together with women and child survivors of abuse and sexual exploitation.

Among the most uplifting and life-changing initiatives program are the ones that have been initiated by the survivors of sexual exploitation themselves alongside NGOs. From their voices and experiences, we have an authoritative picture of the extent to which sex trade industries wreak untold harm to the physical, psychological and mental well being of women and children. From them, we have a better picture of the modus operandi of syndicates, pimps and traffickers that prey on women and children. Survivor-centered programs such as those of SAGE in San Francisco aim principally to provide a safe environment for victims of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation through the provision of a continuum of services such as medical and psychological care and counseling, treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, housing and livelihood opportunities as well as reintegration. CERSO in Chile provides a community with housing where children abused in the sex industry can recover and heal in a caring and a nurturing environment. BUKAL in the Philippines provide health and anti-AIDS information and assistance to street prostitutes wherever they are. BUKLOD and Lawig Bubai provide creche service and scholarships to women wishing to leave prostitution as well as skills in bookkeeping and small-scale business enterprises, leadership training and advocacy.

Many of our member organizations provide a range of direct service to women and girls in situations of trafficking, abuse or prostitution. The Sanctuary for Families in New York provides legal assistance to battered women and their children and defends and represents women in prostitution against pimps and traffickers in the US. The Women’s Crisis Center in the Philippines provides counselling to batterered women and women in prostitution while the Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association, ABC Nepal and Sanlaap in Calcutta actively conduct search and rescue operations as well as repatriation to assist girls out of brothels and forced marriages in South Asia.

On the preventive side, the CATW-AP conducts preventive education programs in partnership with communities aimed at informing the youth in particular about the risks of trafficking and prostitution in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Cambodia. Local NGOs in partnership with these communities devise their own anti-trafficking strategies that includes the use of popular media such as street theater, puppetry and radio drama presentations in coordination with government agencies. Training in detection, prevention of trafficking and empowerment of survivors are also conducted all year round to build the capability of frontline government agencies and NGOs to respond to critical cases as well as conduct prevention programs themselves.

Legislative advocacy for the passage of anti-trafficking laws that do not penalize women and children victims but punish traffickers, pimps and buyers of sex. Such laws must be adequately supported with resources for immediate health, psychological and economic assistance to victims wherever they may be found. Several countries like the Philippines and the US are currently considering the passing of anti-trafficking laws. Alongside the advocacy for local laws is the advocacy for an international human rights framework for the protection of victims and survivors of sex trafficking. The Coalition is working to strengthen the 1949 Convention on the Trafficking of Persons and the Exploitation of Others through the Creation of an enforcement mechanism. Regional conventions such as those being evolved by the South Asia Regional Association (SAARC) and bilateral agreements and projects exemplified by the Philippines Belgian Anti-Trafficking Project between the Philippine Government and Belgian governments are providing the necessary legal and human rights guideposts for policies at the national and local levels. At the UN level, the Philippine government in cooperation with the Coalition has constantly passed as resolution on trafficking in women and girls at the UN General Assembly since 1994.

At the macro-economic policy level, the Coalition is part of networks critical of the globalization thrusts of most governments. It has joined hands with other progressive groups like the Freedom From Debt Coalition in calling for the end of structural adjustment policies that sacrifice women’s access to adequate socio-economic and health services. Reduction of such services and resources has not only marginalized women and their families but have pushed women into situations of prostitution and sexual exploitation in order to survive. During the crisis period, the Coalition has called for women’s access to credit and small to medium amounts of financing to help groups of women to start small businesses like food production, vending and garment production.

Model small enterprise programs such as those managed by DAWN and organizations of ex-women entertainers in Japan called SIKHAY (Initiative) demonstrates the capacity of women to rise above their problems. Combining training in sewing, marketing and quality control, the group has managed to sustain itself for over three years now by accessing credit and training from government agencies as well as Japanese NGOs.

The best and perhaps most effective preventive strategy is to invest in the education of young girls. “Investment in the education of girls may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world” according to Lawrence Summers of the World Bank (1992) simply because education develops the capacity, skills and agency of young girls to make use of opportunities in life in the future. It also decreases the potential for abuse and exploitation. Gender sensitive education must likewise target the boys who must be oriented towards concepts of gender equality and a health respect for relationships and sexuality. To this end, our networks are actively networking with elementary and high school administrators and students in Venezuela, in the Philippines, in Chile and Bangladesh to include in the curriculum awareness our health lifestyles and a health appreciation and respect for one’s sexuality. Some of our networks namely WEDPRO conduct educational and leadership training with Amerasian children, Filipino Japanese children of migrant workers.

In conclusion, it must be emphasized that the sexual exploitation of women and girls especially in conditions of trafficking and prostitution starkly illustrates the extreme social cost of unmitigated pursuit of macro economic policies that are not sensitive to the needs of the most impoverished and the marginalized sectors of countries that have uncritically adopted these strategies. While the benefits of globalization have been evident in the already entrenched economic interests and sectors, the benefits to the majority, especially to women and children have yet to materialize.

In order for these negative impacts to be minimized, the governments must reinstate firm controls over speculative financial flows to avoid causing wild currency and financial fluctuations. Another step is to maintain, if not increase the levels of social spending devoted to education, health and other social support systems to provide a safety net for people who would otherwise not be able to survive without such support. Minimum labor standards and the assurance of social and health benefits especially for women workers must be maintained for greater efficiency and productivity. Crisis or no crisis, governments are accountable in ensuring that the core human rights of women are respected, promoted and ensured. Thus their right to life and security of persons, their right to organize and to free expression, their right to the highest attainable standards of health; the right to decent livelihood and housing, among others, must not be sacrificed in the altar of economic growth for there can be no justification for high levels of GNP at the expense of the most basic rights of people. Where women are not adequately absorbed in the formal sector, provision for access to credit and technical assistance to livelihood programs must be made available. Returning migrant women workers must be afforded enough technical and capital support to restart their lives anew. In the end the best investment for a productive society of the future is to invest of on the welfare, well being of women so that the girl children of today and the next generations can contribute to the building of economically developed, healthy and humane societies. This is not just a matter of survival but a matter of justice and human rights.

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