Asia, with its high-income countries and rapidly industrializing centers rising in the midst of widespread poverty and regional inequalities, is a primary source and locus of international migration of, often, low-skilled workers from within the region and beyond. As Asian states struggle to cope with these growing fluxes, policies have attempted to deal with migrants’ sexuality and reproduction in a number of diverse ways. In HIV/AIDS prevention programs, migrants have been portrayed as a source of disease because of their “risky” sexual behavior, whereas other mobile groups — such as businessmen, tourists, and students — have been ignored. In contract labor policies and bilateral agreements, migrants’ bodies have been viewed as asexual, and migrants, consequently, considered to be not in need of family and sexual interaction. And, in anti-trafficking programs, migrants who engage in prostitution are denied their agency and regarded as passive victims of their circumstances, in no position to make their own choices. This session will take a closer look at these different policies, examine consistencies and inconsistencies among them, and analyze the ways in which they impact on migrants’ rights and well-being. Presentations will challenge nationalist governments’ fears of “contamination” from sexually active migrants, as well as States’ efforts to keep them sexless. Issues of citizenship and labor rights will be examined, and questions posed as to the links, or missing links, between human rights and labor rights with sexual rights. This session on migration also deliberately misses a reference to “trafficking” as, in our view, migration is probably a better point of entry to tackle the controversies/conflation on/of sex work and trafficking.
The above summaries are not meant to be exhaustive of the issues that could fall under the rubric of the four themes listed above. In fact, the Task Force members expect that other issues will be brought up by key speakers and other contributors/participants at the sessions. The Task Force also expects that discussion along these themes will help shed light on the particularities in the context of Asia, of the four focal topics of political processes, economic processes, religion and science, and thus help construct comparative perspectives for the other two regional meetings.