ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Protecting Women or Endangering the Emigration Process

Emigrant Women Domestic Workers, Gender and State Policy

The paper discusses the case of emigrant women domestic workers from Kerala, a state which has had a long history of migration of workers in this segment. It draws attention to the critical failure of the social science scholarship to address the question of poor women migrants. It also provides an overview of state policy on migration and underlines its complicity in generating regulatory gaps. The paper engages with the gendering of citizenship and sovereignty through a comparison of the state policy on migrant women workers and the experience of three segments of this workforce - emigrant nurses, domestic workers and outmigrant fish processing workers. It then considers the question of agency in the context of women workers who are thrust into the position of breadwinners for their families and, finally, the question of responsible state intervention.

This is a revised version of a paper presented at a workshop on “Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities in Asia” at the University of Xiamen, in Xiamen, 12-14 January 2010. We are grateful for the comments received from the participants, especially Diana Wong. We have also benefi ted from Padmini Swaminathan’s suggestions.

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