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Gender as a social construction that organizes relations between males and females can greatly differentiate the causes, processes and impacts of migration between the two sexes. Knowing how these differences play out at the interface of migration and gender is very important. A gender analysis of migration thus looks beyond simple differences in migration behavior between men and women such as the likelihood and type of migration and examines the inequalities underlying those differences. It looks at how these are shaped by the social and cultural contexts of the individual, and the influence that membership of social groups and economic and political conditions can have on decisions about migration.
In the early feminist structural analysis, the dominant question was why women in capitalist societies are systematically put at a disadvantage. The focus was on exploring the social effects of the structural category of gender with regard to interdependencies with other types of social inequality related to class and race. The ‘triple oppression’ model, suggesting multiple oppression of women on the basis of class, race, and gender, sometimes also addressed as the ‘Big 3’ master categories, guided theoretical and empirical research on gender issues up to the 1990s (Davis, 1983 and Segura, 1993). However, early criticism already involved the argument that multiple types of oppression cannot be lined up in an additive way (Anthias and Yuval?Davis 1983)
Of the 190 million or so migrants in the world today, almost 50% are females, many possibly the majority having moved from and within developing countries. Of the $160 billion or so migrant remittances sent home to developing countries in 2004 and more than 166 billion in 2005, it is likely that the major proportion was sent by women. We know that the integration of a gender perspective into development policies and programs can contribute to their efficacy and sustainability (Ramirez et al, 2005). This proves the potential in women as such it is important to consider any limitations against women migration. This leaves us to the intersectionality subject.
Intersectionality emerged as a response to the feminist claim that women constituted a universal category. Intersectionality is what occurs when a woman from a minority group tries to navigate the main crossing in the city the main highway is “racism road.” One cross street can be Colonialism, then Patriarchy Street. She has to deal not only with one form of oppression but with all forms, which link together to make a double, a triple, multiple, a many layered blanket of oppression, (Crenshaw in Yuval-Davis 2006).

This essay will discuss the concept and theory of intersectionality as a model and valid concept to explain the relationship of gender and migration. The essay argues that to a greater extent intersectionality can be considered key because of the potential to enhance learning, discover and understand women’s interlinked situations. Women of color, including African American, Latina, Asian American, and Chicana feminists advanced claims of marginalization and a need for an intersectional thinking because they had experiential knowledge regarding inequalities in the United States (Hill Collins and Chepp, 2013). Specifically, intersectionality has its roots in black feminism and critical race theory in the United States and it is “a method.
This paper sets out to explore the scope, the possible achievements, and the methodological consequences of the concept of intersectionality when applied to specific fields of migration research, for example, within studies on local integration, social exclusion, and segregation. It focuses on the question about whether such a perspective could produce a shift towards integrating individual action, social context, and structure with an enhanced understanding of social formation related to various migration processes.
It denominates cross sections and overlays of multiple features of disadvantage, under privileging, and exclusion, which often have contextual origins (McCall, 2005). It also strongly refers to gender as a generator of several horizontal and vertical dimensions of social inequality. In doing so, it takes up the assumption that the growing diversity has a dark side that has to be explored carefully in order to generate ideas for good practice in inclusionary politics and diversity management.
La Barbera (2017), points out intersectionality focuses on the multiplicity of interactions among the grounds of social exclusion, such as gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, (dis)ability and socio-economic status among others, shedding light on the complexity of the mechanisms of power and privilege in social relations. All these factors positively and negatively affect migrating women in both developing and developed countries.
The introduction of an intersectional view is strengthened by the key critique of the other former methods were women issues were often used in isolation from each other (Crenshaw, 1989). Several dimensions of inequality mostly related to gender, class, and race were seen as being interwoven in various ways.
Migration affects not only the migrants themselves but also their family members even if they remain in the country origin. Gender relations and gender hierarchies in both sending and receiving countries determine the gender-specific impact of migration. Women remaining behind when their male relative’s husbands or parents migrate may find themselves co-residing with other male relatives who may restrict their activities outside the home. In many instances, women left behind in the country of origin must undertake income generating activities to compensate for the income lost by the departure of their male relatives if the latter do not send remittances on a regular basis. Adding financial responsibilities to the other responsibilities that women have, such as child-rearing, can lead to stress but can also provide women the opportunity of gaining autonomy and experience in decision-making. Nonetheless, when women become migrant workers or participate in the labour market of the receiving society, they tend to gain independence and autonomy, leading to a change in gender relations within their families. Gains of that nature at the household level may, however, do not necessarily extend to other spheres of a woman’s life, such as the place of employment or within her ethnic community at large (Matsuda, 1991)..
Conceptually, intersectionality proposes that the various categories of oppression are understood as interconnected and interdependent, rather than as separate essentialist categories, given the limitations of privileging one system of oppression over another and the impossibility of explaining inequalities through a single framework of oppression (Valentine 2007).
To illustrate the potential advantages of using intersectionality in theory and practice, this essay includes issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality. In addition, statuses of age, ethnicity, ability, nation, citizenship/citizenship status, religiosity, and language are considered extensions in migration studies (Hill Collins and Chepp, 2013; Hill Collins, 2015). In these variables, a proliferation of intersectionality has been witnessed so as to understand various outcomes and patterns in society. Migration has now become a key development issue especially in terms of being seen as an avenue of social change (Silvey 2004). Given that migrants cross multiple boundaries of ethnic, racialised, classed and gendered in nature it is not surprising that migrant women are fast becoming the ‘new’ ‘quintessential intersectional subjects’ (Nash 2008:1).
Many female migrants come from developing countries that are already somewhat integrated into the global economy with export-oriented industrialization such as Philippines and Sri Lanka. Also, where there is already a long tradition of domestic migration in such countries, there is a stronger likelihood of female emigration (Oishi, 2002). For example, many of the Philippine women who migrated to Hong Kong and China have tended to come from such internally mobile areas. Also, many of the Thai women who have integrated into the global sex industry moved first to Bangkok or one of the major tourist resorts, where clients and agents could arrange work or marriage for them overseas. The flow-on international migration generated by this could then occur directly from the rural locations (UNESCAP, 2003). Compare this scenario with the Bangladesh situation, where the majority of women are still in the agricultural sector in rural areas, and rural-urban migration is still dominated by men. Therefore the status of being unmarried or married determines migration opportunities. Poverty and economic stability of a woman in the same manner determines who migrates.
It is important to understand the causes and consequences of international migration from a gender perspective because hierarchical social relations related to gender shape the migration experiences of migrants, whether male or female. Understanding whether migration occurs because of gender inequality or whether migration itself helps to perpetuate gender disparities is important to guide the formulation of policy and measures to address the specific needs of women who migrate (Silvey 2004).
Education can also affect women’s migration potential, as it does with men. But, unlike men, while their education may impel them to move, foreign companies have frequently preferred to hire them because they are cheap and docile rather than educated (Oishi, 2002). The Philippines places a premium on the training and education of its emigrants, particularly nurses, domestic workers and seamen as part of its proactive labor exporting policy (IOM, 2005a), and as a result is able to achieve higher wage levels for its migrants in destination countries (Orozco, 2005). Understanding these crossroads for women becomes key in the study of migrating women.
Health can also be an important determinant of migration by the poor and an adverse effect of women migration where in the poorest countries, disease such as malaria, TB and particularly HIV affect participation of women in agriculture, changing and reducing crop yields, and directly affecting the work of women. This is causing them to move elsewhere for survival, although we need more information on the scale and implications of this. But the health sectors of developed countries are also increasingly drawing women and men from poorer regions into the global labor markets, as population’s age and labor supply diminishes in the critical health care services (e.g. Ghanaian and Nigerian nurses to the UK, and Caribbean nurses to Canada).
As gender attributes are usually assigned by cultures, the migration choices and constraints for females can vary vastly depending on their socio-cultural origins. One could argue that in the case of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the high emigration of women has been possible inter alia because of the greater flexibility in gender roles in those societies. One survey found that many Philippine and Sri Lankan women tend to take their own decision to migrate contrary to household strategy theories – because they already enjoyed considerable autonomy and decision-making power within the family, also in regard to household finances (Oishi, 2002). This may also explain why spousal separation has relatively less of an impact in those countries than in more patriarchal cultures where women’s social role is more strictly prescribed such as in parts of South Asia and the Middle East.
The more restrictive the role assigned to women in their origin countries, by culture or religion, the less actual female migration, as witnessed in the Indian state of Kerala, where the lowest proportions of migrant women were from the Muslim population (compared with the Syrian and Latin Christians (Zachariah et al, 2001). But such restrictions can also force women to move, or to use marriage or work offered by recruiters, often poor to escape such situations. In Tanzania, women have found themselves compelled to migrate either for work or marriage because they are excluded from land inheritance (Black, 2004)
In view of the above, intersectionality is used to understand these experiences and various systems of oppression, it focuses on a variety of ideologies, titles, and cultural practices that are regarded as interrelated, and cannot be understood on their own (Hill Collins and Chepp, 2013). These statuses allow intersectionality to be applied as a way to understand “human life and behavior in the experiences and struggles of marginalized people” (Dill, 2002 cited in Hill Collins and Chepp, 2013, p. 2). Carbado et al. argue that application of theory via different statuses is paramount for viewers to create a connection around the shared experiences of oppression, of marginalization, and of privilege. In applying intersectionality, researchers are able to better understand group actions and experiences because they are able to better comprehend the experiences.
International and government policy at both the origin and destination ends of the migration spectrum can have a gender-specific influence on migration decisions. Policies create an environment where women are operating from and what is prescribed for women will affect their decisions even in migration to promote or limit women opportunities. Many poor female migrants have been more vulnerable to irregular forms of employment and deportation by having their residency status and entitlements tied to the immigrant status of the male spouse countries such as Spanish policy before 2003. Even where this kind of status dependency also applies to male spouses, it is likely that the selection criteria for the principal migrant would (inadvertently) exclude women from many developing countries, because of their lack of educational opportunities at home.
Immigration policies can unintentionally reinforce traditional gender roles. For example, if the legal status of a female spouse is dependent on the male partner, then if there is spousal abuse, the female is usually liable to deportation, unless a special visa category is introduced to protect her independently as in Canada (Black, 2004).
Intersectionality has greatly contributed in putting to the fore the interconnected and constitutive nature of multiple forms of oppression and privilege in migration processes. It has opened up new avenues for challenging the primary focus on gender in the migration literature, which in turn allows for the emergence of new understandings of how gender is also constituted by class, race, ethnicity and informed by normative notions of sexuality (Bürkner 2012). As migrants move from one place to another, they also create new possibilities, for themselves, the people who are ‘left behind’ as well as those they encounter on the way to and at their destinations (Bastia 2011).
Many female immigrants find themselves excluded from integration programs in the destination country, both as a result of their dependent status and in some cases their illegal migration status. At the same time, most destination countries still do not have migrant integration programs, and where they do exist, they tend to overlook the multiple burdens and vulnerabilities of migrant women, or reinforce the subordinate role perceived as usual for women from developing countries (Ramirez et al, 2005). Migrants (particularly females) tend to have higher unemployment rates in Europe; and by not benefiting from language and skills training, their chances of finding work or improving their employment situation are reduced.
By applying an intersectional approach, these studies begin to redress some key shortcomings in the gender and migration literature. First, by highlighting the importance of disaggregating our analytical categories to reveal important differences, they demonstrate the importance of intra-group differences. For example, one article uses intersectionality to analyse migrant political participation in London (McIlwaine and Bermudez 2011). The authors find that among Colombians in London, women are more likely than working class men or middleclass women to be involved in politics. On this basis, the authors argue that working class women are much more likely to challenge gender regimes than middle class women or working class men, who are least likely to be involved in politics given their greater desire to return to Colombia.
Intersectionality lends itself to a movement and has been characterized by its ability to move and change to fit various knowledge projects (Carbado et al., 2013). Hill Collins and Chepp highlight that this movement and adaptation is necessary because intersectionality is not a finished theory, rather, it is a way to understand that systems of power are deeply intermingled and socially constructed, they are taught, made legitimate, and replicated (2013). As such, intersectionality is always a work in progress because it is impossible to fully grasp the complexities of systems of power (Carbado et al., 2013). Because of intersectionality’s ability to encompass different experience and communities, intersectional analyses have affected political activism and public policy (Hill Collins, 2015; Hill Collins and Chepp, 2013). Phoenix and Pattynama outline that intersectionality stimulates policy development and political action because it helps policy makers and politicians understand how individual stories have political consequences (2006). Thus, intersectionality works with the various factors that lead to marginalization in order to understand how social inequalities thrive and work (Hill Collins and Bilge, 2016).
Despite the uptake and spread of intersectionality in gender and migration studies, it became apparent that intersectionality theory also has some weaknesses. It is argued that lack of a clear methodology is clearly one of the challenges of intersectionality. For Nash (2008), intersectionality continues to rely on binary identities to explain multiple forms of discrimination. As such there is no beginning or end in intersectionality and this makes the methodology questionable. The additive tendency reflects the relative lack of a specific methodology associated with intersectionality. Secondly, critique of intersectionality is the issue of scale, both in terms of who is deemed to be intersectional as well as in terms of obscuring intra-group differences. Nash (2008) queries whether all citizens are intersectional or whether only those who are marginalised have an intersectional identity. However, if intersectionality is to work as an anti-exclusionary tool, then it needs to address both privilege and oppression and how different axes of differentiation work through each other to produce both. Lastly, it is argued that the intersectionality approach often ends up focusing on the characteristics of the subjects in question, rather than the structural factors that create inequalities.
In conclusion, despite the cited limitations of intersectionality, the preceding sections have illustrated that intersectionality as an approach in understanding migration is an attractive and original approach, grounded in feminist theories of power and difference to better understand gender and migration. It is sufficiently acquiescent so as to enable the inclusion of multiple and complex categories of identification while at the same time enabling the analysis of both privilege and disadvantage. In migration studies, it has enabled the opening up of new areas of inquiry, destabilising the centrality of gender while at the same time maintaining its strong relationship to the original feminist preoccupation with equality and social justice. From this point of view, intersectionality is a heuristic device allowing for learning, discovering and deciphering interwoven and complex phenomena that perpetuate oppression and marginalization.
Combining macro, meso, and microlevels in a comprehensive yet open view that explicitly takes into account the migrating individual’s structural and cultural embeddings, it promises to trace inequality back to the specific dynamics of interplay between structure and agency.
Intersectionality was proposed as an alternative approach aimed at challenging the essentialising notions present in identity politics, which implicitly assumed that ‘white, middle-class women or black men are the exemplary victims of systems of sexism or racism’ (Prins 2006: 278). Such essentialising notions inevitably led to the obscuring of intra-group differences in the context of violence against women, this elision of difference in identity politics is considered problematic, fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class’ (Crenshaw 1993: 1242).
Intersectionality further spans into two dimensions, that is an “attempt to trace and account for a supposed fragmentation of identities within political movements”, or also focus as a tool to decipher and enhance our understanding of complexities in systems and processes that define the social” (Grabham et al., 2009, p. 1). In other words, different discriminations overlap, co-produce and “compound each other and are inseparable” (Hill Collins, 2013 p. 89). This is a crucial part of intersectionality because it outlines how the ‘intersection’ of systems of power is not by mistake, rather that the systems of inequality rely on one another to function and maintain inequalities. Understanding of intersectionality in gender and migration results in more gender sensitive policies, approached and behavious.

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