Why We Need Gender in International Migration Theory
Jasmin Lilian Diab
- 4 Posts
- Age 26
Despite the fact that understanding gender is crucial in the migration context, it has been witnessed across literature, theory and discipline, that this highly fundamental factor has been overlooked. The reality of the matter is that throughout the emerging study of the field of migration as well as the theory underlying it, scholars and experts have traditionally focused upon the reasons for international migration and movement of people across borders, rather than upon questions of who migrates? and how the who? plays into the why?
Similar to other emerging disciplines in the areas of international relations and international law, migration theory has been unsuccessful in addressing gender-specific migration experiences, and in turn influencing any gender-specific migration policies across borders. This reality makes it more than difficult to explain the conditions under which women migrate. It moreover fails to explain the predominance of women in particular fields of labour and their absence from others. Traditional migration theory's gender-neutral fails in addressing the circumstances under which women become movers, enter into illegal trafficking rings, or even seek refugee status, asylum, or permanent resettlement.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, answering these questions and other more gender-sensitive inquiries requires "highlighting how an apparently gender-neutral process of movement is, in fact, highly gender-specific and gender-oriented, as well as may result in differential outcomes for men and for women."
Theory must focus upon how gender be incorporated into our understanding of migration theory. It must also address different types of migration in order to form a comprehensive understanding of movement in general, including temporary, permanent, economic, illegal, and migration as a result of an ongoing war or ethno-political conflict.
Developing a gendered theory of migration in particular has proven to be a challenge due to the fact that the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, demography, law, and history have tended to focus on only a few types of migration and stress different explanations. If international migration theory is to incorporate gender appropriately and effectively, it must take into account the factors which overlap in order to create different experiences all along the migration spectrum - experiences which indeed not only effect the women who migrate, but which also effect the families they take with them. Outlining these forces and their outcomes all play into the enhancement of international migration theory and also highlight the individual experiences of migrant women around the world.
The International Organization for Migration highlights that recent efforts to incorporate gender in international migration theory have come in the form of a shift in international refugee law. Catalyzed by an attention to women's issues in general, as well as women being placed at the center of international efforts such as the MDGs and the SDGs, the development of new "gender asylum" doctrines and procedures has taken place in more than one state and across more than one border. These recent efforts illuminate the growing legal harmonization between the human rights regime, international migration theory, the refugee regime, and gender-centered issues currently taking place in order to provide protection to people who are crossing borders in whichever capacity, reasoning, or gender for that matter.