Women make up 48% of international migrants globally, and more women are migrating on their own, including as heads of household, than ever before. The increasing numbers of women migrating independently is often referred to as “the feminization of migration”. While many people migrate in order to take advantage of new opportunities or reunite with family, others leave in order to escape violence. Discrimination and violence based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation are amongst the push factors for the migration of women and LGBTI persons in Central America and the Caribbean.

A person’s sex, gender identity and sexual orientation shape every stage of the migration experience. Gender affects reasons for migrating, who will migrate, the social networks migrants use to move, integration and labour opportunities at destination, and relations with their country of origin. The expectations, relationships and power dynamics associated with being a man, woman, boy or girl, and whether one identifies as (or is perceived to be) a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) person, can significantly affect all aspects of this process.

Women migrants and LGBTI migrants are often more vulnerable to violence and exploitation during the migration process, and may face multiple forms of discrimination depending on the context of their migration. They may be discriminated because of being migrants (especially if irregular or undocumented), because of their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and potentially for other reasons as well, such as their age or ethnicity.

At the same time, migration can be empowering for women migrants and LGBTI migrants, allowing them to become agents of change and development for themselves, their families and communities. 

IOM is committed to understanding, assessing, and responding to gender dynamics in our all programs and activities, and to promoting gender equality. We are committed to addressing the needs of all migrants, together with our partners across the region. Proactively including gender equality in IOM’s work on migration means: advocating for equal rights under the law; combatting discrimination and violence (including trafficking in persons); understanding how gender influences migration; knowing and responding to how gender shapes access to social services, economic growth, capacities, risks and vulnerabilities; and understanding how migration influences gender roles and gender equality. Taking all of these steps is central to IOM’s mandate and intrinsic to developing safe, humane and orderly migration for all.

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