Migration, moralities and moratoriums: female labour migrants and paternalistic protectionism in Indonesia
(National University of Singapore)
Paper short abstract:
Indonesian women’s overseas labour migration creates persistent moral dilemmas both in terms of their safety and sexuality in destination countries. This paper explores the nexus between state-based protectionism and women’s own views of the gendered moralities that frame their overseas employment.
Paper long abstract:
Women constitute the majority of Indonesia's key overseas labour migrants, with most employed as foreign domestic workers (FDWs) throughout Asia and the Middle East. A range of gendered moral discourses underpin women's roles as FDWs. These moralities are fuelled by images of abuse and exploitation towards FDWs that regularly appear in Indonesian media, as well as anxieties regarding women's perceived unbridled sexuality as they work abroad. Therefore Indonesian women's overseas labour migration creates persistent moral dilemmas both in terms of women's safety and sexuality in destination countries. In the wake of these dilemmas, the Indonesian government has renewed calls for a roadmap to stop females from undertaking domestic work abroad beginning in 2017. This paper explores the gender-specific moralities embedded in this proposed regulation which applies exclusively to female, low-skilled labour migrants. I argue that while the roadmap ostensibly works to protect FDWs, it also functions to curb women's mobility and sexual autonomy. This gendered morality, which I label 'paternal protectionism' exemplifies state-based projects designed to convey concern for migrant women's welfare and rights (Pande 2014). Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with FDWs currently working in Singapore, I explore the nexus between state-based paternal protectionism and women's own views of the gendered moralities that frame their overseas employment. In turn, I also examine women's perspectives on the moral obligations of the Indonesian state as FDWs' consider the implications of the roadmap upon their plans for their futures.
Contestations of gender, sexuality and morality in contemporary Indonesia