Not as safe as houses: experiences of domestic violence among international migrant women

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It is widely acknowledged that international migration processes can profoundly shape and be shaped by intersectional gendered power relations (Herrera 2013). Negotiations around gender norms and practices play out transnationally and locally across multiple spheres from the state to labour markets but are crucially centred within households. Yet the nature of such negotiations varies intersectionally, but also according to whether women move independently or with partners, as workers or for marriage, or as victims/survivors of trafficking and smuggling (Yeoh and Ramdas, 2014). In destination contexts, migrant households can act as arenas of refuge from wider societal hostilities and discrimination as well as places where some re-negotiation of gender norms might occur (Boehm, 2008). Yet, they may also become domains where hierarchies of gendered power, wider forms of structural violence linked to migration regimes, and unfree labour relationships within households may lead to violence and abuse (Huang and Yeoh, 2007). Although migrant women are vulnerable to multiple forms of domestic violence, the incidence of abuse is not always routinely higher than for non-migrants. Indeed, there are dangers in assuming that domestic violence is higher among migrants as this is often linked with arguments that blame such violence on the cultures of the societies from where women migrate. This neglects the gendered, structural and institutional inequalities of immigration processes that contribute to the incidence of abuse that are experienced in intersectional ways (Sokoloff and Dupont, 2005). These wider structures of power and control influence whether and how women seek support as well as the nature of assistance available for survivors by the state and civil society (Erez et al., 2009). Bearing these issues in mind, this chapter explores a series of key debates around delineating domestic abuse among international migrants, also exploring its prevalence, its diversity and multidimensionality, the core drivers underlying its incidence, as well as barriers to reporting. While the discussion draws on debates among international migrants in a wide range of contexts, it also draws empirically where relevant on recent research with international migrant women in London
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Migration and the Family
EditorsJohanna L Waters, Brenda SA Yeoh
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781789908732
ISBN (Print)9781789908725
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2023


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