Academic journal article Refuge

Protection and Paternalism: Narratives of Nepali Women Migrants and the Gender Politics of Discriminatory Labour Migration Policy

Academic journal article Refuge

Protection and Paternalism: Narratives of Nepali Women Migrants and the Gender Politics of Discriminatory Labour Migration Policy

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article considers the current age and gender discriminatory migration laws in Nepal in their historical and socio-cultural context. Drawing on eight months of fieldwork and data collected from both migrants and migration policymakers I ask, What are the consequences of discriminatory laws on young Nepali women's migration experiences? And why do gender and age discriminatory laws and policies persist in light of evidence that they may actually endanger migrants? I posit that historically dominant Hindu gender norms provide the basis for the paternalistic migration laws currently in place. I argue that age and gender discriminatory migration policies are rooted in patriarchal concern for women's ijaat (social honour) and sexual purity. The result of discriminatory law is not a reduction in migration but an increase in irregular and illegal migration that exacerbates women labour migrants' vulnerability to a variety of abuses. I conclude that examining discriminatory migration laws with an intersectional lens raises interesting possibilities for theorizing how and why these ineffectual laws persist.

Resume

Cet article se penche sur la legislation discriminatoire actuelle en matiere de migration concernant l'age et le sexe au Nepal et son contexte historique ainsi que socioculturel. En faisant appel aux donnees de sondage et de nature ethnographique provenant des migrants ainsi que des responsables en matiere de politique migratoire, je considere en premier lieu: quelles sont les consequences des lois discriminatoires sur les migrantes nepalaises jeunes? Et quelles sont les raisons pour lesquelles des lois discriminatoires concernant l'age et le sexe persistent encore a la lumiere des indications demontrant que ces lois risquent en fait de mettre en danger les migrants? J'estime que le sexe hindou dominant sur le plan historique fournit la base sur les lois paternalistes actuelles, et que les lois discriminatoires concernant l'age et le sexe sont ancrees dans un ordre patriarcal du ijaat (l'honneur social) et de purete sexuelle chez les femmes. Le resultat est l'augmentation de la migration illegale et irreguliere, ce qui amplifie la vulnerabilite ainsi que divers abus de femmes migrantes. Je conclus sur une discussion portant sur la maniere dont une politique plus adaptee pourrait repondre a la legislation migratoire actuelle qui ne prend pas en compte la complexite du processus decisionnaire.

Introduction

In response to limited economic opportunities in Nepal, migrating abroad for labour has become a common livelihood strategy. In 2014, remittances sent from Nepalis working overseas accounted for over a quarter of Nepal's GDP. (2) While the majority of overseas workers are men, the number of Nepali women migrating abroad has steadily increased. In an attempt to "protect" Nepali women from exploitation abroad, the state has implemented gender discriminatory migration laws, which restrict women under thirty from leaving the country to work as domestic labourers in Gulf countries. (3) Instead of curbing migration, these laws have pushed women's migration, both to the Gulf and other destinations, into more precarious and dangerous migration channels.

This article considers the current age and gender discriminatory migration laws in Nepal in their historical and socio-cultural context. Drawing on eight months of fieldwork and data collected from both migrants and migration policymakers, I attempt to answer three questions:

1. What are the socio-cultural and political antecedents that contextualize contemporary gender and age discriminatory migration laws in Nepal?

2. What are the consequences of discriminatory laws on young Nepali women's migration experiences?

3. Why do gender and age discriminatory laws and policies persist in light of evidence that they may actually endanger migrants?

Background

Nepal has a population of about 30 million and was, until 2008, ruled as a Hindu kingdom. …

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