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Posted on: 11-01-16
Sexuality and migration

Sexuality is a regime of power that thoroughly shapes families, communities, state institutions, and economies; and it underscores that sexual norms, struggles and forms of governance always articulate hierarchies of gender, race, class and geopolitics.

Sexuality has impelled migration by individuals such as: lesbians, gay men, and unmarried pregnant women seeking to avoid discrimination or stigmatization; married people seeking employment to support children; women and men using marriage as a strategy for legal migration; those going abroad to sell sex; individuals seeking HIV/AIDS treatment; sex tourists; and others. Sexuality also shapes people’s access to social networks that provide the information, resources, and contacts that enable migration. Nation states, in turn, often decide whether to admit or refuse entry to migrants based on sexual considerations that cross-cut racial, gender, class, and geopolitical calculations. For instance, legal admission often depends on fitting into normative definitions of family, kinship or marriage, or claiming fear of persecution that takes sexualized form or is based on sexuality. Conversely, migrants are often denied legal status when they cannot fit into normative definitions of family, or are believed to present sexual danger (for example, as supposed carriers of sexual diseases, or loose women, or men who might sexually prey on others, or sexual ‘perverts’). Migrants continue to be governed in sexual terms after entering the nation state, especially through their interactions with economic, health, welfare, and education systems. Moreover, citizens respond to migrants through a sexualized lens, often seeing them as exotic, sexually backwards/traditional/repressed, highly fertile, bearers of perversion and disease – or as models of sexual and moral values that the citizenry should emulate. Through these processes, binaries of us/them, citizen/migrant, normal/deviant become expressed, mapped onto bodies and places, and struggled over.

Given that both migration and sexual controls are intimately tied to histories of colonialism, global capitalism, and slavery. There is an interconnection among sexuality, migration, and struggles to end inequalities. Some explore how the criminalization of unauthorized migrants, the rise of the prison industrial complex, and sexual norms that articulate racial, gender, and class hierarchies, work in tandem to legitimize subjecting diverse populations to exploitation, violence, and shortened lives. Others problematise how global human rights discourses used in asylum cases, including those involving sexuality, may at once reinscribe colonial, racial and gender inequalities but nonetheless present opportunities for change. These and other analyses ask us to question critically how the connections between sexuality and migration may reinforce, or offer opportunities to transform, multiple inequalities at different scales.

Reference: Towards Emotion - Eithne Luibhéid

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