Migrants dance to demand end to exploitation against women

Several hundred migrants staged dancing performances in Taipei on Sunday to raise awareness of the injustices encountered by female migrant workers. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Several hundred migrants staged dancing performances in Taipei on Sunday to raise awareness of the injustices encountered by female migrant workers, joining the annual “One Billion Rising” global campaign aimed at spurring action to end violence against women.

Flash mob participants echoed this year’s theme — Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women — by appealing to Taiwan’s government to provide legal protections for female migrant workers, most of whom are caregivers or domestic helpers not covered by the provisions of Taiwan’s labor laws.

Migrante-Taiwan held 2018 One Billion Rising Taiwan in Taipei Railway Station on Feb. 11. Many felame migrant workers attened to protest against bully in workplaces. (Photo courtesy of CNA)

It’s been nearly 30 years since Taiwan introduced migrant workers, but “there is still huge room for improvements with regards to protection of the rights of female migrant workers,” said Gilda Banugan, chairperson of Migrante International’s Taiwan Chapter, an organizer of the event.

“We continue to stand up because the government continues to ignore our appeals,” Banugan said.

Annie, a careworker from Indonesia who represents Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (ATKI-Taiwan), said the event is intended to showcase through speeches and dance the difficulties facing female migrant workers in Taiwan and to fight for better rights for women.

According to the Ministry of Labor, as of January there are 375,321 female migrant workers, or 55.38 percent of the total number.

Of the 677,698 migrant workers, the ministry’s data shows 426,190 are employed in industrial sectors mostly covered by the Labor Standards Act, while 251,508 who work either as caregivers or domestic helper are not protected by the law.

Lennon Wong (汪英達), head of the Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers run by the Serve the People Association in Taoyuan, demanded that the government extend the protections provided by the Labor Standards Law to caregivers and require employers enroll caregivers in Taiwan’s labor insurance program.

The lack of legal protection has condemned caregivers to low wages, long work hours and other exploitations, Wong said. “It’s a shame that Taiwan has left this unjust system unaddressed for 30 years.”

The “One Billion Rising” movement was initiated in 2012 by American playwright Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” a collection of stories written in 1996 based on her interviews with hundreds of women about their relationships with their bodies, to highlight the problem of gender violence.

With the world population at 7 billion, the United Nations estimates that 1 in 3 women globally will be beaten, raped, or abused during their lifetime – which amounts to 1 billion women and girls.

Photo courtesy of CNA

This is the fifth year local migrant worker rights groups have organized the event in a show of solidarity with victims and survivors of violence.

At the event, they staged dance performances, including “We Are Beautiful” and “Break the Chain.”

Banugan said that they held the dance protest because “dancing is very difficult and so is our struggle.” “We have to dance together to have our voices heard,” she said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)