Two to tango-A A +A
One Small Voice
Friday, August 17, 2012
THERE should be no space, in this day and age, for slavery. But there is. And there are. It happens anywhere. It happens everywhere.
But, in this day and age, it is no longer called slavery. It is called by all kinds of names, the most common slave of which is called a domestic helper. A domestic helper is a house helper. We have domestic helpers in our country. We have domestic helpers all over the world.
They suffer from all kinds of abuse. They suffer from all kinds of exploitation. They have almost no rights. They have almost no privileges. They are, to put it very bluntly, treated like they are not humans. The long and short of it is that there is in fact, for all intents and purposes, slavery.
Slavery is abominable, abhorrent and atrocious. Slavery must be stopped.
It is for this reason that the recent pronouncement of the International Labor Organization, and the recent ratification of our country of this pronouncement, must be hailed as a milestone but only as a milestone.
The struggle for the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of domestic helpers must continue until such time that they are actually treated in the way humans must be treated.
This pronouncement of the International Labor Organization acknowledged domestic work as a decent and legitimate work that deserves to be given equal rights and equal recognition enjoyed by other laborers. Good.
These equal rights include, but are not limited to, the right to minimum wage, the right to regular working hours and holidays, the right to health and other benefits, and the right to organize and form unions, among many others. Good.
The International Labor Organization also required signatory countries to take a series of measures that shall promote dignified work standards for domestic workers as well as periodically reporting on the status of the measures that have been undertaken. Good.
Good. Good. Good. But not yet good enough, as no major migrant-receiving country has so far signed and ratified the pronouncement of the International Labor Organization.
If and when the member countries of the International Labor Organization, at present numbering 183, sign and ratify the pronouncement, their governments make and give a formal commitment to implement the obligations provided for in the pronouncement. Without these countries signing and ratifying the pronouncement, it will just be yet again another one of those useless pieces of paper? Nice to read, nice to hear, and that is the end of it. Useless.
According to the records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority, as of 2011, the number of newly hired Filipino domestic workers rose to 136,000 for the first time in Philippine history. This figure is just the recorded. This figure does not yet include the unrecorded. This figure is just the newly hired. This figure does not yet include those that have already been hired through the years.
Whatever, this is a huge number of people who are, or who might be, victims of slavery. We have not yet counted the families and relatives of our domestic workers who are, by and large, victims as well, if and when their kin are or will be treated as slaves.
Therefore, the campaign must now focus on convincing, or forcing in one way or the other, the other member countries to sign and ratify the pronouncement. This is the only way to realize the contents of the pronouncement. This is the only way to realize the beginning of the end to slavery.
Therefore, we must do everything in our power, whatever power we have if we have, to get other countries, especially the major migrant-receiving countries, to sign and ratify the pronouncement of the International Labor Organization.
In the final analysis, as always, as usual, it takes two to tango.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 17, 2012.