Thursday, August 30, 2007

Revisiting issues blogged about earlier, and highlighting a new women's rights issue

The purpose of this brief post is to provide updates or alternative views on issues that were featured in previous blog posts, while pointing to an interesting analysis of a previously unexplored issue.

In two recent articles posted on India Together, Ammu Joseph discusses the salient features of the draft Broadcast Regulation Bill, while also providing a detailed critique of crucial provisions. The two articles, in the order they were published, can be accessed here and here.

Over the last month, we looked at aspects of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. While posts on our blog have generally focused on the positive aspects of the NREGA, here is a recent article in the EPW which highlights some worrying trends in the implementation of the Act in Orissa.

Lastly, here is a piece published once again in India Together that focuses on a governmental decision to ban migration of Indian women below the age of 30. The core argument that Rita Manchanda advances in this piece is as follows:

"The government recently imposed a ban on emigration for women under 30 going abroad to work as domestic help and caregivers. But this move will not stop women who want to migrate. Instead, it will drive them into clandestine migrant mobility regimes, putting them at greater risk to trafficking and exploitative treatment - the very concerns that have driven the ban."

The piece highlights the following statistics:

"Official decadal estimates state that 550,000 Indians migrate for work annually, of which 360,000 head to the Gulf, contributing to a migrant stock of three million there. Statistics of women migrating for work have shown a sharp increase, as evinced in figures from the major migrant producing state of Kerala. ... .... ... The earnings of 40-50,000 Indian nurses in the Gulf, 90 per cent of whom belong to Kerala, has contributed to pushing the state's per capita income from negative to 41 per cent above the national average."

Citing the work of feminist scholars Flavia Agnes and Ratna Kapur, Manchanda argues:

"Behind the ban is a patriarchal State asserting itself to 'protect' its 'helpless' and 'ignorant' young female citizens. Undeniably, the horror stories Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury heard in Kuwait - about confiscated passports, arbitrary changes in terms of contract, physical torture and sexual abuse - has prompted a renewed concern about the vulnerability of women migrants to exploitation. ... ... ...

Legal and administrative restrictions on migration or immigration in destination countries will only foster clandestine migration mobility regimes. Trans-national migration is integral to the global pattern of economics and trade. A UN study (2004) has noted the trend towards feminisation of international migration, with 49 per cent of all migrants being women and girls. Globalisation has fuelled the development of economic sectors with women-specific demands for cheap labour in certain sectors. Moreover, ageing populations in the developed countries are producing an expanding and sustainable demand for cheap domestic workers and care givers.

The emigration ban denies women their agency, equal status as citizens and the opportunity for economic and social empowerment. Moreover, it is too blunt a protective instrument and will further drive women's migration underground."

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