Women and migration: a public health issue

M Carballo, M Grocutt, A Hadzihasanovic
World Health Statistics Quarterly. Rapport Trimestriel de Statistiques Sanitaires Mondiales 1996, 49 (2): 158-64
The need to migrate is usually a function of the complex interaction of economic, social, familial and political factors. Among the most important, however, are the denial of access to education, employment, goods and services and the lack of respect for basic human rights. Because in many societies women are marginalized from these rights, migration to more economically and educationally open societies can often help improve their personal situation and their professional opportunities. On the other hand, because the status of women is usually linked to their role and status within the family and is defined in relationship to their male partners, migration can place women in situations where they experience stress and anxiety due to the loss of their traditional social entourage and environment. Their social integration in new settings may be equally limited by their initial lack of education and occupational experience. The higher vulnerability of women to sexual abuse and violence also places them at risk of STDs, including HIV, and a range of post-traumatic stress disorders associated with sexual violence. Their reproductive health needs often go unnoticed and unprotected even in well organized refugee and migrant situations, and the insensitivity of health staff to the needs of women is often more pronounced in refugee and migrant contexts than it is in general. Health monitoring of women in all migration-related situations has to be given greater priority. Similarly, much more attention at a health policy level is called for if the rights of women refugees and migrants are to be protected, and their contribution to health and social development is to be acknowledged and promoted.

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