New book chapter available – Female Migrants: Sex, Value and Credibility in Immigration Control

 I am pleased to annouce that the edited collection, Borders and Crime: Pre-Crime, Mobility and Serious Harm in an Age of Globalization (edited by Sharon Pickering and Jude McCulloch) has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan, featuring a chapter by myself and Marinella Marmo on the treatment of migrant women to the UK. You can download the introduction to the collection from the Palgrave website.

The title of our chapter is ‘Female Migrants: Sex, Value and Credibility in Immigration Control’ and I am posting the abstract/introduction to our chapter below:

This chapter seeks to explore the continuities and changes in the treatment of female migrants by British immigration control by comparing and contrasting the immigration control policies of the 1970s with contemporary practices. It will provide a historical context for understanding how certain categories of female migrants have been criminalized within the immigration control system on the basis of values around moral decency and body integrity. The two case studies investigated here are: the practice of ‘virginity testing’, carried out by immigration officers on Indian subcontinent women at Heathrow Airport and at British High Commissions in the late 1970s; and the British immigration officers’ treatment of female victims of human trafficking for the sex trade in contemporary times.

This paper aims to contribute to the discussion on the arbitrariness of borders (Weber 2006) and the dichotomy of the infantilized versus the demonized trafficked woman (Segrave et al., 2009). We argue that the trafficked woman, reminiscent of the woman subjected to ‘virginity testing’, is considered by immigration officers and higher Home Office officials as a ‘body’ that fits – or does not – a purpose in the destination society. The body reveals worthiness – whether the woman deserves to be admitted as a valued instrument, not a human being, to be used and consumed in the destination country (Marmo & La Forgia, 2008).

We apply the infantilized/demonized dichotomy further to claim that these women are not considered people, but mere bodies. They are emptied of the range of human complexities, motivations, emotions, hopes and fears. Their reasons for desiring to reach the destination country do not matter. Now and in the past, they are rendered as socioeconomic and political tools of the destination society, and numbers for the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA). The executive, the Home Office, uses these women to fulfil their objective of sustaining a stable, moral and compartmentalized society, then and now.

Other contributors to the collection include Dario Melossi, Leanne Weber, Sanja Milivojevic, Gray Cavender, Nancy Jurik, Rob White, Patrik Olsson, Chris Cunneen, Dean Wilson and Jeremy Keenan. The book is available to buy now from the UK Amazon site, but the US Amazon site says it will be available on October 30. You can also purchase it from Book Depository.


Marmo, M. & La Forgia, R. (2008) ‘Inclusive National Governance and Trafficked Women in Australia: Otherness and Local Demand’, Asian Journal of Criminology, 3(2), 173–91.

Segrave, M., Milvojevic, S., & Pickering, S. (2009) Sex Trafficking: International Context and Response, Devon, Willan.

Weber, L. (2006) ‘The Shifting Frontiers of Migration Control’, in S. Pickering & L. Weber(Eds), Borders, Mobility and Technologies of Control, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer, pp. 21–44.

Search for a Topic
Posted Recently

hatfulofhistory at gmail dot com

%d bloggers like this: