The second day of the Conference started with discussion on immigration policies that are not especially exclusive towards migrant women. It was underlined how certain women, from certain parts of the world, are excluded, due to the cultural frame they are taking with them in the destination country.
Pragna Patel is a founding member of Southall Black Sister and Women Against Fundamentalism, and the main subject of her writings are about gender, race and religion. Speaking about state policies towards migrant women she presented the case of women who are from states with strong patriarchal traditions and get married in developed countries. Because of their migrant status they are dependent on their husband regarding their residence permit in the host country. Therefore in the case of abuse they can not ask for support from state institutions, if they are victims of domestic violence they can not ask for protection because they know that end of the marriage will mean for them end of their stay in the host country. The option to come back is also closed for them as they come from societies and families which do not accept divorce and won’t offer them any support in case of their return. These being said it can be understandable why do women accept the situations of being victims of abuses without asking for help from any state institution. In this case religious institutions might represent a possible source for help and support. But religious institutions are also the one who maintain patriarchal view on the status of the women.
In her presentation, Pragna Patel emphasized that all religious institutions are in fact discriminatory and misogynist. The first attitude of those institutions towards women victims of domestic violence is to push them to return to the abusing family, because the primary goal of any religion is to keep family intact. If the dependency on religious institutions will increase, the situation for women will become extremely problematic and will affect particularly migrant women. Nowadays religious institutions have received more power to occupy the public space and to shape civil society, fact that leads to a very undemocratic and anti-human rights picture. Instead of taking direct measures against domestic violence, the state will always prefer to make the link between gender related violence and immigration.
This is why state must intervene and make its own policies in order to protect migrant women and decrease the influence of religious institutions influence on them. One way in which state could be determined to take action is to question the politic of “zero tolerance for domestic violence”, to request the state to maintain this policy also for the case of migrant woman. Southall Black Sisters success was by challenging not the immigration authority, but the government for his international reports on the basis of human rights laws, and no tolerance for domestic violence policies. In conclusion, the fight should be against the culture of refusal: the state refuses to recognize the domestic violence, even when that is proved from the state authority. The state has to be made to accept that it has to be intolerant also with domestic violence against immigrant women and this right shouldn’t be assured on discriminative terms just for the non-immigrant women.
Ioana Vrabiescu & Irina Ilisei, participants at at the Panel 3, in the second day of the Conference.