Born to Serve: The Singular Case of Domestic Work in the Context of Trafficking in Human Beings for Labour Exploitation

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Joana DANIEL-WRABETZ, STOP Trafficking and Oppression of Children & Women, India

Domestic servitude is a form of extreme abuse of domestic workers, and domestic workers are amongst the most vulnerable to exploitation because of their invisibility and lack of control mechanisms (social and institutional), particularly in terms of legal protections and restrictions on movement. In societies marked by social inequalities, studies such as Cock (Cock 2001), indicate that domestic workers are situated "in the convergence of three generating lines of inequality: class, race and sex."

Several studies conducted by ILO in several countries aimed to determine the extent of child labor, concluded that there are more girls under 16 as domestic workers than any other category of child labor. So far, despite the growing interest and a number of studies, not only in Sociology but also in Economics and Law, a deeper sociological analysis on the association of domestic work to new forms of slavery or trafficking in human beings for labor exploitation is still missing.

Are all forms of slavery understood as such by contemporary societies? Or  are there "islands" socially acceptable in some contexts, either for religious reasons, cultural (castes), or simply for its invisibility, were slavery forms are surviving over the years? It is domestic servitude of these "islands"? This is already an indication of anomie, or just the acceptance of a certain degree of illegality?

This paper discusses to which extent the theories of Marx and Durkheim apply to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation, in particular domestic servitude, and focuses on empirical research in India where several domestic workers come from lower castes or migrate from neighboring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal.