The death of Eugenia Baja: Feminicide and transnational feminist organizing among Filipina migrant workers

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In February 2008, Eugenia Baja, a twenty-five-year-old Filipina domestic worker, allegedly committed suicide by banging her head against the tiles in her employer’s bathroom. Autopsy documents from Riyadh authorities listed her cause of death as an ulcer, and noted that her body showed signs of starvation. Also in February 2008, parts of Honiefaith Ratilla Kamiosawa’s mutilated and dismembered body were found concealed in suitcases, scattered around Tokyo. She was working in Japan as an entertainer. In October 2007, Jocelyn Dulnuan was found dead with inside the Mississauga mansion where she worked as a caretaker under Canada’s federal Live-in Caretaker Program. She was twenty-seven-years old, a native of Ifugao province in the Northern Philippines. Her body bore more than seventy stab wounds. Jocelyn, Eugenia, and Honiefaith were among the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country every day to work overseas. An estimated 75 percent of them are female, making Filipinas the country’s largest export. They are also the country’s most lucrative export, generating remittances of over US$15 billion in 2007. This government-sanctioned labor migration is therefore a key component of the country’s economic development program. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has dubbed migrant workers as the country’s bagong bayani—the new heroes of the Philippine economy. Heavily invested in the remittances from migrant workers, the Philippine government presents these murders and suicides as isolated incidents and cautionary tales. This paper argues that the deaths of Eugenia, Jocelyn, and Honiefaith are feminicides, part of the Arroyo government’s long track record of tolerating and sanctioning violence against women. It connects their deaths to the state state-sanctioned labor migration program and the lack of support infrastructure for migrant workers, a lack that is even more pronounced for Filipina migrant workers in service and domestic work occupations, where they are vulnerable to abuse and violence.

External Authors

Stephanie Santos
Both Fregoso and Sanford are critical of the key elements of feminicide–the state’s denial of its role in the murders of women. Often, this denial that the systematic killing of migrant women constitutes feminicides, illustrating Stanley Cohen’s idea of organizational denials. Thus, instead of finding ways to address and prevent the continued occurrences of feminicides, “the entire rhetoric of government responses to allegations about atrocities consists of denials.” Fregoso similarly observed that “the most pernicious consequence of the discourse of globalization has been to absolve the state of its complicity with feminicide.” Feminicide is thus emerging as the price to be paid for globalization, so that developing countries could participate in the
new global economic order.

 

 


 

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