Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Research: Reproductive freedom among migrant workers

Alternative Routes just published a new article entitled ‘Bodies and boarders: Migrant women farmworkers and struggle for sexual and reproductive justice in British Columbia, Canada’. This paper examines the experiences of female migrant farm workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP).

The crux of the article is that the structural features of the SAWP mean that female workers have difficulty making choices about their bodies and sexuality. These structural factors include “…include precarious legal status, poverty, lack of access to primary care services, limited knowledge of the health care system, and workplace insecurity” (p. 92). Workers' sexuality is also subject to intense surveillance (by both their employers and the state), although this surveillance does not seem to prevent their sexual harassment.

The authors document numerous acts of resistance (e.g., rule breaking, speaking out, various forms of concerted action) as these workers assert their reproductive rights. That said, it is striking how these women’s ability to control their bodies is constrained in a country that, at least theoretically, upholds women’s right to make free choices about sexuality and health care.

Among the strategies advocated by the authors are educating health care providers about the unique power relationship that exists in the SAWP program, ensuring workers can (and now they can) access the public health-care system without undue financial constraint, and severing links between the health-care and immigration systems.

-- Bob Barnetson

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