New Guidelines Launched to Protect Women Migrant Workers’ Rights from Violence during COVID-19


[Press release]

Women discussing about COVID-19 prevention. Photo: UN Women/Putra Djohan

Jakarta, Indonesia – The Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection with the support from UN Women, today launched the Guideline on the Protection of Women Migrant Workers during COVID 19 and the Protocol for Handling Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking during COVID-19. Both the Guideline and the Protocol provide measures for handling and ensuring the availability of comprehensive services to better promote and protect the rights of women migrant workers to be free from violence and trafficking. It was developed by taking into account the vulnerabilities and specific needs of women migrant workers during COVID-19 pandemic

There are 24,912 Indonesian women migrant workers or 71% of total migrant workers, returning from countries affected by COVID-19 as of September 2020.[1] In normal circumstances, women migrant workers are at risk of discrimination, exploitation, and violence. The emergency situation, such as COVID-19 pandemic, has increased the risk of violence against women migrant workers by employers, partners, law enforcement officials or front-line service providers. Women migrant workers might be vulnerable to workplace violence, facing violence and harassment on their journeys back home or at COVID-19 quarantine facilities, and intimate partner violence upon returning as families cope with additional stress and economic losses.

“Protecting the rights of migrant workers, especially women migrant workers, is our collective responsibility.” HE I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection in her opening remarks. “Most of the women migrant workers work abroad because they are the family breadwinners. Protecting the rights of women migrant workers means protecting their family’s livelihood, including their children. This is the reason we developed the guidelines for the protection of Indonesian women migrant workers and the prevention of human trafficking during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The guideline and protocol emphasize the importance of a victim-centric approach that empowers victims and puts them as the main subject of the services. It also aims to serve as references for the government, service providers, community-based organizations or consular services to ensure a more coordinated quality services and to better support women migrant workers throughout the migration cycle, especially during the pandemic. The guideline and protocol are supported by Safe and Fair (SAF): Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a UN Women and International Labour Organization (ILO) joint programme generously supported by the European Union. The SAF project aims to ensure that labour migration is safe and fair for all women in the ASEAN region, including Indonesia.

“During COVID-19, stress, the disruption of social and protective networks, and decreased access to services can all exacerbate the risk of violence for women, including women migrant workers. Women migrant workers are the least likely to report violence as they fear arrest or deportation,” said Jamshed Kazi, UN Women Representative and Liaison to ASEAN. “Unless we address women migrant workers’ particular needs in our COVID-19 response, they can become even more vulnerable to violence and harassment. We trust the guideline and protocol will be relevant and useful for responders and key stakeholders to effectively help those affected by violence and to contribute to a safer environment for women migrant workers.”.

Vincent Piket, Ambassador of the European Union to Indonesia said, “It is now more important than ever to ensure that women migrant workers’ rights are protected and they receive support when and where they need it. The EU is pleased to promote the development of the guideline and protocol for the protection of women migrant workers during COVID-19. We believe it will provide effective references and guidance for multi-stakeholders in ensuring gender responsive services to women migrant workers, including those who are subjected to violence and trafficking.”

UN Women works in close partnership with the Government of Indonesia and aims to comprehensively support Indonesian women migrant workers and to continue safeguarding their human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As part of this efforts, UN Women in collaboration with UNFPA, also supported the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protections for the guideline and protocol to protect the rights of women and children from discrimination and gender-based violence during the COVID-19.

Media contact:

Nunik Nurjanah
National Programme Officer for Ending Violence against Women
Email: [ Click to reveal ]

Radhiska Anggiana
Advocacy and Communication Officer
Email: [ Click to reveal ]


[1], 8 September 2020.