This article looks at the confluence of love, labour and the law by focusing on the regulation of migrant women's sexualities in the Gulf Coast Cooperation countries of the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Migrant women increasingly comprise the majority of migrants to the region as the demand for intimate labour in the Persian Gulf is on the rise. But migrant women who become pregnant while in the Persian Gulf are immediately imprisoned and charged with the crime of zina. These women give birth while incarcerated and spend up to a year with their babies in prison. They are then forcibly separated from their children when they are deported, rendering the children stateless in the host country. Migrant women who are often brought to the Persian Gulf to perform (re)productive labour are seen as immoral if they engage in sexual activities during their time in the Persian Gulf (and this is written into their contracts), and thus are seen as unfit to parent their own children. Some migrant women have recently been protesting these laws by refusing and fighting deportation without their children. This article contrasts discourses about migrant women's sexuality and legal analysis with the lived experiences of selected migrant women and their children through ethnographic research conducted in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City between 2008 and 2014.
Regulating Migrant Women's Sexualities in the Persian Gulf
Intimacy, Relatedness and Boundaries in the Life of Hanoi's Migrant Domestic Workers
Minh T. N. Nguyen
This article argues that migrant domestic workers in Hanoi practise a form of fictitious kinship to carve out personal spaces away from their rural home. Biographical narratives of domestic workers who are unusually devoted to forging emotional ties with their employers indicate that they tend to have problematic private lives. Beyond emotional labour, the performance of fictitious kinship entails significant personal investment on the part of women, at times generating mutual feelings and relationships between them and certain members of the employers' household. These relationships are crucial to their personal transformations, helping them construct new identities and opening up possibilities for challenging the power hierarchy in their home. Yet such constructed kinship is treacherous and uncertain, not just because of its foundation is their commodified labour, subject to the rules of the market, but also due to the dangers of intimate encounters in the private sphere.
Over and above the reasons or the wrongs of the apologists and the critics of globalisation, it seems impossible to deny the development, during these last few decades, of a global network of social connections and functional interdependences that link individuals and nations – no one is excluded. As Tony Spybey and Roland Robertson remind us, even the deepest meanings of existence, the most intimate of personal experiences and daily behaviour are involved in this radical change of cognitive and symbolic reference points: the world as a whole.1 The globalised world is the result of a series of compressions and integrations that have reduced the so-called ‘empty gaps’ in the material of human relations. As Joseph Stiglitz emphasized, the thing that has favoured the process of global compression-integration is the impressive reduction of the time and cost of transport and communication, and the demolition of artificial barriers to the international circulation of goods, services, capital, knowledge, and – even if still strongly obstructed – of people and labour.