DAY SIXTEEN: Jawan Beetal Baa, Uhe Geetwa mein Chhapal-ba – Bhojpuri Women and Articulations on Migration

For our final blog for this year’s Blogathon, Asha Singh writes about Lakhpati Devi’s songs, which are a reflection of how many women experience migration in their families.

Asha Singh

Featured image: ‘Lakhpati in centre’ was also taken in 2014 in Bhairotola, which is under Chandi thana of Bhojpur district. Bhairo-tola is Lakhpati’s natal village. Image credits: Asha Singh

Baba ho kate da na duyi-das dinwa nu ho,

Tale praabhu-ji lawati ayihen ho.

E beti ho humase na kati toharo dinwa nu

Chali ja na matariya bhiri ho

E mai ho kate da na duyi-das dinwa nu ho

Tale praabhu-ji lawati ayihen ho

E beti ho humase na kati toharo dinwa nu ho

Chali ja na bhaiyawa bhiri ho

Oh father, let me spend a few days at your home

Till my husband returns

Oh daughter, I can’t take care of you,

Go ask your mother.

Oh mother, let me spend a few days at your home

Till my husband returns.

Oh daughter, I can’t take care of you,

Go ask your brother.

I collected this song from Lakhpati Devi, a septuagenarian unlettered woman who is also my mother. Lakhpati, like many other Bhojpuri women her age, is a storehouse of songs. I grew up with these songs. Researching them has always been a bitter-sweet experience for me.

Sweet, as they are the only living repertoire of Bhojpuri women’s collective experiences. Bitter, as they are used to reproduce the violence of traditional gender roles and caste affinities. This is not to argue that women’s songs don’t question traditions. They do, especially when they come in contact with new ideas and aspirations.

It has been my aim as a researcher to convey this bitter-sweet nature of songs and underline their undeniable place in Bhojpuri women’s experiences of mobility and immobility.

Now, let me turn to Lakhpati Devi’s song. It is an excerpt from a long dialogue between a married daughter and her natal family. She pleads to stay with them a little longer till her migrant husband returns home. Her parents remain unwilling to commit a decision and evade her appeal. The song works as a fact-fiction. It captures the generic conditions of ‘marriage migration’ – the inaugural experience of mobility (and immobility) for most women in Bhojpuri society.  Patrilocality ensures that women make no claims to resources in her natal village. This disenfranchisement, a form of structural gender-based violence, is regulated through social rituals, rules and oral art forms. This song reminds women of their status in their paternal home, post-marriage. It mirrors her own alienation from the natal home, a place she co-produced with her labour as a peasant-daughter. However, she (and the protagonist in the song) doesn’t hate her parents. Rather a deep sense of sorrow permeates the song where poor daughters realize how their equally poor parents can’t share much with them; that marrying a daughter is an economic transaction that settles delicate questions of resources. Thus, a deeper sense of patriarchal structure as violence, springs from the script of the song. Lakhpati’s parents died young of easily curable diseases in the 1970s. Singing this song perhaps is a way to remember them – a migrant child’s memories. Take a look at another such song where the daughter laments being married off to Bhojpur instead of urban Arrah or Chhapra. 

#भोजपूरी#सबकेबियहलाआराजिलाछपराहमरेबाबूजी #BOJPURI  #HAMKE BIYAHLA BHOJPUR HAMARE BABU JI

In the Bhojpuri milieu, the migrant figure is usually a young man who leaves his family to earn a living. His life and actions are commemorated in women’s folk songs. If we look close enough every such song recognizes two categories of migrants. One, the easily identifiable economic male migrant. And two, the implicit, taken-for-granted marriage migrant – the main voice in the song. Let us take a look at one such song, recalled by Lakhpati Devi, which captures an exchange between these two categories of migrants –

Kahe dhani angawa ke paatar ho ram

Kahe dhani chowkathiya dhaile jhuruvas ho ram

Toharo je maiya prabhu ho awari chhinariya ho

Tauli naapiye telwa dihalan ho ram

Toharo bahiniya prabhu ho awari chhinariya ho

Loiye ganiye hathwa ke dihalan ho ram

Husband: Why do you look so thin, dear wife?

Why do you look so sad, standing at the doorway, dear wife?

Wife: Oh husband, your mother is such a bitch,

She gives me only a few drops of oil.

Oh husband, your sister is such a bitch,

She gives me only a handful of flour to cook.

When the husband asks his wife to explain the reasons for her frail frame and sorrow, the newly-wed wife tells him that her in-laws deny her oil (telwa) and portions of kneaded flour (loiya). The song is woven together additively, with ‘prabhu ho awari chhinariya ho’ acting as a bridge to add new lines. Like other women’s songs on migration, the protagonist is a ‘newly-wed’ wife. One rarely comes across songs where a middle-age married woman becomes the protagonist. The ‘newly-wed’, is a migrant coping with forms of everyday violence—the scarcity, the control, the refusals of her wishes—in her marital home. 

Bhojpuri Folk Song (Jatsaar) | Saraswati Devi | भोजपुरी लोक गीत (जतसार)

The household is characterized by conflicts and negotiations of a marriage migrant. The micro-politics of oil and flour – daily necessities – is a slice of how women experience migration.  Reflecting on the content of the song, Lakhpati Devi conceptualizes them as lapsed or persistent lived experiences which are orally passed down through generations (‘jawan beetal baa, uhe geetwa mein chhapal-ba’ or what we experience is ‘printed’ in the song). The presence or absence of the migrant husband or khanihaar (breadwinner who has the first claim to all resources) determines the status of the marriage migrant. Lakhpati’s husband, my late father, was a migrant, for almost half their marriage. His absence adversely affected her life and that of her children. Her children survived only when she left for the city with her husband.

Women’s articulations on marriage migration and its everyday violence have silently shaped Bhojpurian notions of pain and displacement. Irrespective of gender, Bhojpuri migrants draw from women’s lives and sing like women to endure the pangs of mobility. The conditions of migration in Bhojpurian society are shaped by the structural violence of socio-economic institutions. Songs register (if not reflect) disappointments with such forms of violence but also work as painkillers to endure them.
This image was taken in 2012 in village Dihari under thana Sandesh, district Bhojpur (Bihar). Dihari is Lakhapti’s conjugal village. Image credits: Asha Singh

Author’s Bio

Asha Singh is an Assistant Professor in Gender Studies with Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). She has also taught at Ambedkar University-Delhi, Amity University-Noida, Adamas University-Kolkata and Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya HindiVishwavidyalaya-Kolkata centre. Prior to her academic career, she was a journalist in Hindi newspapers NaiDunia, Bhopal and LokmatSamachar, Maharashtra. Her PhD is from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Her doctoral work focuses on the intersections of gender, caste and migration in Bhojpuri folksongs. Her current research focuses on the sociology of Bhojpuri language, its institutional history and implications on social transformation. She has published with EPW, Sociological Bulletin, Sage, Routledge and Prabudhha.As a bilingual scholar she has contributed essays in popular platforms like Hindustan Times, Roundtable India and Savari.

DAY FIFTEEN: The experiences of migrant girls in cities 

Anandini Dar centres the experiences of migrant girls in this piece and their exclusion from schools and public spaces, which is “intrinsically enmeshed with the larger patterns of reception of migrants in the city, their living conditions, (im)mobility and freedom from authority, spatio-structural inequality and poverty.”

Anandini Dar

Featured image: “0011 – A TESS-India material using teacher engaging in student centred activity based teaching in her classroom” by TESS-India is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

“School jaane ka mann nahi karta.” 

 (I do not feel like going to school) 

Rinky, 13 years, girl  

This statement, while made in a fleeting way during a conversation by Rinky, a migrant child residing in an urban informal settlement in the south of Delhi, is very telling. It captures the sentiments shared by many other young adolescent girls who experience everyday life through the prism of gender, (im)mobility, and precarity. In India, there is a high rate of internal rural to urban displacement accompanied by migration to cities, with approximately 139 million people migrating from rural to urban centers, as per the latest Census (2011). With statist development agendas deeply linked to plans for urbanization, families migrate to cities in search of better jobs and schooling for their children. Many of these families travel back to their hometowns seasonally, for festivals, important family occasions like weddings and deaths, and as per the agricultural cycles of harvest. But while living in Delhi most families feel displaced, and the lives of their children remain as bleak as the myth of modern schooling.1

Despite the inclusion of migrant children and their issues around education in the NEP 2022, the plan for school retention of migrant children is not sufficient for the kinds of “slow violence” young migrant girl children, in particular, face inside and outside of schools in Delhi. 

 When I was working with migrant families who have arrived from Assam and West Bengal and living in an urban informal settlement in the south of Delhi, I found that girls’ exclusion from educational spaces was not only a problem of the schooling system, but intrinsically enmeshed with the larger patterns of reception of migrants in the city, their living conditions, (im)mobility and freedom from authority, spatio-structural inequality and poverty. Social and physical inclusion is as much, if not more important to ensure that educational and social aspirations of girls and their parents are fulfilled.

Despite enrolment in schools, many of the migrant girls, as they enter adolescence, are sent back to their villages to get married as young as thirteen years old. If girls stay back in cities, they continue to face various forms of exclusion and violence. Young girls face threat to physical harm in public spaces, and their parents fear their safety, as a result of which girls are barred from spending time in large open spaces within their settlements, not allowed to access city streets independently, and are mostly resigned to household chores and care work for younger siblings.

When Rinky articulates that she does not feel like going to school, as shared in the opening account, it is not only because of the challenges that continue to permeate the schooling system, including language barriers to her learning, but also due to the unsafe urban landscape that girls like her traverse on a daily basis.  

However, young migrant girls like Rinky are resilient and very articulate about their needs and aspirations, despite the setbacks to their mobility and education. In discussions with adolescent girls in the settlement, we were able to learn about their challenges and their needs. Through drawings, girls shared that there is no accessible play space for them in their neighborhoods, and oftentimes their most basic desire to play games with friends in the settlement is deterred due to an absence of a designated safe play area. One girl shared that they cannot play in the settlement as groups of men and young boys occupy the open areas and they feel unsafe in those areas and do not get a chance to play with friends. Neighbouring public parks are gated and despite many of their mothers working in the neighboring gated communities, they are not allowed to use the public parks. Girls shared that if there was a designated play area, which included trees, access to drinking water, and a shop where they could purchase play materials, they would feel safe in playing outdoors in their settlement.  

Image copyright: Himanshi & Duha.  

We learned from this process that it is important to listen to girls, as they are not just “becomings”, but agentic beings, with capabilities (Prout & James, 1997), rooted in their socio-cultural and embedded everyday contexts. They are able offer innovative ideas for interventions to improve their own wellbeing. Only through more transformative and inclusive spaces along with practices of co-designing with girls that there is a possibility to fully listen to girls ideas and innovative strategies that can help counter the “slow violence” they experience in their everyday landscapes within the city.  


Balagopalan, S. (2022). Introduction: Modernity, Schooling, and Childhood in India: Trajectories of Exclusion. Children’s Geographies, DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2022.2073196 

Prout, A. & James, A. (1997). A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood? Provinance, promise and problems. In James, A. & Prout A. (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (Second Edition). London: Falmer Press. 


This reflection has emerged from the research project “Displacement, Placemaking and Wellbeing in the City.”  The support of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the two research frameworks of the Global Challenges Research Fund and the EU-India Platform for the Social Sciences and Humanities (EqUIP) is gratefully acknowledged. The  project is also grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (Grant Ref ES/R011125/1).  

Author’s Bio

Dr. Anandini Dar is Faculty of Sociology and Education, at Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD), India. She is the founder and co-convener of the Critical Childhoods and Youth Studies Collective (CCYSC), and serves as the advisory board member of The Childism Institute, at the Rutgers University, USA. Dr Dar completed her PhD from the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers. She recently co-edited a Special Issue for the journal Childhood, titled, “Southern Theories and Decolonial Childhood Studies” (2022). She is currently co-editing the International Handbook of Childhood and Global Development, Routledge, UK, and has published articles in encyclopedias and journals such as, the International Journal of Children’s Rights, Childhood, and the Journal of Childhood Studies.  

DAY FOURTEEN: Challenging sexual humanitarian bordering through co-creative ethnographic filmmaking

Nick Mai shares the trailer to CAER, made in collaboration with Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo, and argues for the importance of co-creative ethnographic filmmaking as a strategic methodological approach to challenging the spectacle of victimhood, allowing migrant sex workers and other migrant groups to define victimhood according to their needs, experiences, and priorities.

Nick Mai

Featured image: Image: Still from CAER: Lorena Borjas and Liaam Winslet watching the first version of the film during a co-creative editing feedback session. From Anti Trafficking Review. 

Contemporary times are characterised by the convergence of the inequalities engendered by neoliberal policies and the parallel increase in both migration flows and restrictive migration policies. They are also characterised by the global rise of neo-abolitionist policies attempting to eradicate sex work, framed as sexual exploitation and trafficking, which often translates into harmful policies exacerbating the exploitability and deportability of marginalized, racialized and sex-gendered migrant groups. This convergence is the background for the proliferation of sexual humanitarian biographical borders. These emerge at the interplay between discursive, material and performative practices through which a majority of ‘economic migrants’ are filtered away from a minority of refugees identified according to stereotypical humanitarian understandings of victimhood, abuse and exploitation expressing the sensibilities and priorities of the global north. Co-creative ethnographic filmmaking (ethnofiction) can be a strategic methodological approach to challenge the idealised and stereotypical priorities and categories of victimhood framing sexual humanitarian bordering by allowing migrant sex workers and other marginalised and stigmatised migrant groups to define victimhood in their terms according to their experiences, priorities and needs. 

Watch the trailer to CAER (Caught) here. It was made in collaboration with the Colectivo Intercultural Transgrediendo

Author’s Bio

Nick Mai is a sociologist, an ethnographer and a filmmaker whose writing and films focus on the experiences and representations of stigmatised and criminalised migrant groups. Through co-creative ethnographic films and original research findings Nick challenges prevailing representation of the encounter between migration and sex work in terms of trafficking, while focusing on the complex dynamics of exploitation and agency that are implicated.  Nick is the author of Mobile Orientations: An Intimate Autoethnography of Migration, Sex Work, and Humanitarian Borders (Chicago University Press, 2018).  

DAY TWELVE: Care, fear and mothering in the British asylum accommodation system

“Writing about motherhood in the asylum system, I’ve come to realize, requires thinking about forms of life that survive, resist, and often also thrive in vulnerablizing and harmful spaces; and about the care practices that enable them to do so, even amidst fear” says Júlia Fernandez in this illuminating piece.

Júlia Fernandez

Featured image: Rayan’s accommodation, a small studio flat where she lives with her two children since they were moved to a very isolated area in the outskirts of the city. Rayan is one of Júlia’s participants in this project and the photo was taken by her.

I press Ctrl+F on my keyboard and search for the word ‘care’ throughout the document where I type all my fieldwork notes. The search function returns 120 results, of which more than 50, I quickly realize, belong to the word ‘scared’. Such an altering presence of two additional letters prompts relevant questions when writing about motherhood in the British asylum system. In what ways are ideas and experiences of ‘care’ and being ‘scared’ woven into the same everyday life stories of mothers living in asylum accommodation, and what does it mean to mother along the divides between care and fear?

Eleven months of (still ongoing) ethnographic research on the reproductive experiences of asylum-seeking women residing in temporary accommodation in London have invited me to wonder how ‘care’ and ‘fear’ mobilise different yet interconnected practices and discourses that shape lives -and life-making- in the asylum system. The authors of ‘Revolutionary Mothering’ beautifully capture the care work of mothers as ‘making a hostile world an affirming space for another person’ (2016: 116). 

Writing about motherhood in the asylum system, I’ve come to realize, requires thinking about forms of life that survive, resist, and often also thrive in vulnerablizing and harmful spaces; and about the care practices that enable them to do so, even amidst fear.

What is it like for mothers to care when caring takes place in sites defined by ‘habits opposite to love’ (Gumbs, A, 2016: 12)? How do mothers nurture the life of others in sites that facilitate their very own suffering? And how is gender central to the understanding of how forms of violence fold into the everyday practices of care?

I follow Victoria Canning’s criticism of the structural violence of the British asylum system (2018) and approach asylum accommodation as hostile spaces structured by gendered and racialized forms of control, where the perpetuation of violence, trauma and fear is woven into the ordinary lives of unwanted populations. Canning’s work evidences the further gendered harms inflicted by the structures that contain and control migrants on women who have survived persecution. I try to extend her line of analysis to explore the impacts on mothers who care for their children and others in the precarious and uncertain circumstances of temporary asylum accommodation.

Mothers are moved through or stuck in the asylum accommodation system on a no-choice basis, subjected to forms of surveillance and control, and to the enforcement of material and legal precarity. Thereby, they experience minimized autonomy and safety, and higher levels of dependency and vulnerability that extend gendered and intersectional forms of violence into their everyday lives.

As houses witness processes of feeding, nurturance, love, and the continuous remaking of social relations, they also carry wider political significance. Thus, I argue, as extensions of patriarchal control, asylum accommodation structures and the gendered systems of violence that underpin them act as particular terrains for the emergence of specific forms of relatedness and practices of everyday care and support with which mothers, often as lone parents or as primary caregivers, respond to the violence and brutal care deficit of the system and the fears that this engenders.

María breastfeeding her newborn baby right before they were moved to another room. Her partner was carrying downstairs everything they had. Image credits: Júlia Fernandez

For the mothers I have met through my fieldwork, fear lives in the subtle, lingering agony of protracted waiting times and in the sudden accelerations of forced mobilities. The persistent threat of destitution silences dissent and complaint among mothers, whose phone calls to the charity Migrant Help are imbued with the fear of being dismissed or of being punished for the insolence of being ungrateful. Fear soaks through that meal illicitly cooked in a hotel room with improper appliances and pervades the air like the smoke that activates the alarms. Fear inhabits unopened envelopes containing unintelligible Home Office correspondence, empty Aspen cards at the end of the week, the return of a husband from an unlawful work day that raises public suspicions about illegal employment. Mothers fear raising a baby on their own in a hotel room and being sexually harassed on their way to the communal toilet. They fear unfavourable forced mobilities and disrupted childhoods that unfold through the course of fragmented memories of temporary housing.

For almost a year, I have observed the day-to-day strategies mothers utilise as they figure out how to mother despite being scared of the various deliberate forms of harm that permeate the British asylum system.

Mothers answer the gendered impacts of structural violence that further marginalise, impoverish, and exclude them with mundane, sketchy, creative, improvised acts of making life possible – often imbued with a sense of not-enoughness. Women respond to poor housing conditions by bathing small children and warming up milk bottles in the sink; composing ingenious sleeping arrangements in a limited living space; cooking chicken soup inside a kettle and warming up pizza slices in a secretly sneaked-in-toaster. They respond to the marginalising and individualising mechanisms of the accommodation system by waiting for the staff shift to bring friends and relatives to stay overnight and by participating in forms of relatedness across sites of temporary accommodation that support them and allow them to care for others. Their acts of care include boundless hugs and kisses to their children and other mother’s children; donating second hand clothes, buggies, and cots to their neighbours; doing hospital visits and helping with childcare; building a den with blankets and pillows and baking a birthday cake for their friend’s child.

The circumstances in which these acts of care take place bestow their mundanity with an extraordinary character that pushes back against gendered systems of violence and nurture the life of others beyond the limits of their fears.

Canning, V. (2017): Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System.  Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship. London: Routledge.

Gumbs, A., Martens, C. and Williams, M. (2016): Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. PM Press.

Author’s Bio

Júlia Fernandez is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, currently conducting ethnographic research on reproductive experiences among asylum seeking women in London. Her research aims to capture the complex everyday experiences of mothers within the British immigration and asylum system, seeking to understand how the conditions of transiency, insecurity and temporality result not only in particular modalities of mobility but also articulate specific reproductive experiences and subjectivities “on the move’’. Júlia also volunteers as a doula supporting asylum seeking women during pregnancy and childbirth and has social care background working with migrant women experiencing gender-based violence.

DAY TEN: Dowry abuse and exit trafficking in the transnational context  

Sara Singh sits down with Prof Manjula O’Connor, psychiatrist, researcher and advocate, to talk about the issue of dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

Sara Singh and Manjula O’Connor

Featured image: Couple crossing last fingers, reproduced from Shutterstock.

Sara Singh sits down with psychiatrist, researcher and advocate Professor Manjula O’Connor to talk about dowry abuse in the transnational context and the use of exit trafficking by perpetrators to abandon victim-survivors overseas.

In recent years, there has been growing awareness amongst policymakers, service providers and community members in Australia of the issue of dowry abuse. Defined as the use of ‘coercion, violence or harassment associated with the giving or receiving of dowry at any time before, during or after marriage’, dowry abuse is a form of domestic and family violence (DFV) that disproportionately affects women, girls and their families.

Whilst historically the practice of dowry in Indian societies was intended as a means of empowering women and providing them with a measure of economic and financial security as they began a new chapter in their lives as married women, in modern times the practice has been exploited by many individuals who utilise it as a tool for obtaining and/or accumulating wealth and money.

Research has highlighted how men and their families may make excessive demands for dowry and perpetrate various forms of abuse against women and their families to coerce them to accede to their dowry demands. At the same time, perpetrators may abuse women in retaliation for providing what they perceive to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘insufficient’ dowry.

“If the groom or his family believe that the amount of dowry given was not sufficient, then that starts to give rise to all kinds of abuse, including demands and extortion”, says O’Connor, who has spent more than a decade supporting women who have experienced dowry abuse in Australia.

According to O’Connor, one of the main factors facilitating the perpetration of dowry abuse is the power imbalance that often exists between perpetrators and victim-survivors. In transnational marriages, this power imbalance is often heightened, creating further opportunities for abuse. Research has highlighted how globalisation and international migration have generated and reinforced inequalities in power, status and socioeconomic opportunities between countries and regions. These inequalities can have implications for marriage and dowry negotiations.

O’Connor highlights how non-resident Indian (NRI; i.e., an individual with Indian citizenship who has migrated to a foreign country) men living in Australia may be perceived by residents in their country of origin as highly attractive candidates for marriage due to their NRI status and the potential social and economic opportunities that their residency in Australia provides. In these circumstances, NRI men may leverage their Australian residency status to demand greater dowry from women and their families. “The marriage prospect of an Australian resident back in South Asia…for example in India, they are very good…” says O’Connor. “They are seen to be far superior as compared to the local grooms and that increases the value of the groom in terms of the dowry amount.”

In many cases of dowry abuse in transnational contexts, the victim-survivor may also be reliant on the perpetrator for visa sponsorship into the country the perpetrator is residing in. This dynamic contributes to the power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim-survivor, creating further avenues for abuse. 

O’Connor notes how perpetrators, for there may be multiple, may exploit their position as the victim-survivor’s visa sponsor to demand additional dowry. These demands may be reinforced by threats by the perpetrator to withdraw their sponsorship of the victim-survivor’s visa if the victim-survivor does not accede to the perpetrator’s demands. In this way, perpetrators coerce and control victim-survivors, and instil a sense of fear in them.

O’Connor also highlights cases where the perpetrator has, after receiving large amounts of dowry from the victim-survivor and her family, tricked or coerced the victim-survivor to return to her country of origin, and then abandoned her there and withdrawn sponsorship of her visa, leaving her unable to re-enter Australia. “What I have seen is that there are some grooms who are able to fraudulently send their wife back home under false pretense, and when she’s there, have removed their sponsorship and cut off all connections with her and confiscated the dowry given”, says O’Connor.

This tactic of deceiving or coercing victim-survivors to return to their country of origin, and subsequently abandoning them there, is termed ‘exit trafficking’. Defined as the use of coercion, threat or deception to make an individual leave the country, exit trafficking is a criminal offence in Australia (see s 271.2(1A), Sch 1, Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)), with offenders liable to a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment if found guilty of the offence.

Despite the criminalisation of exit trafficking in Australia, however, community awareness around the issue remains low. Victim-survivors of exit trafficking are often unaware that the perpetrator’s conduct amounts to a criminal offence and that they can be supported to legally re-enter Australia.

“Most women do not know that they are able to return back to Australia under this particular law which says that exit trafficking is illegal and a criminal offence”, states O’Connor.

Currently, multiple services in Australia assist victim-survivors of exit trafficking. The Australian Federal Police (AFP), for example, investigates cases of exit trafficking, supports victim-survivors, and offers referrals to other relevant support services. One such support service is the Australian Red Cross, which is funded by the Department of Social Services to run a support program for individuals who have experienced trafficking. The ultimate decision around whether a victim-survivor of exit trafficking can stay in Australia rests with the Department of Home Affairs.

As O’Connor notes, more work needs to be done to develop community awareness around the issue of exit trafficking in the context of dowry abuse, so that victim-survivors are aware of their legal rights under Australian law and can access appropriate services for support and assistance. “I think that the most important thing is education of the community and women”, says O’Connor. “It’s very important that [victim-survivors] are given the information that in the case of domestic violence or any threats of trafficking that they should connect with the police and relevant services straightaway”.

Authors’ bios 

Manjula O’Connor is a Psychiatrist with four decades of experience. She is also an applied researcher and a published author. Her primary area of interest for past 10 years has been family violence and mental health in immigrant communities. She chairs the Royal Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists Family Violence Psychiatry Network and is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, as well as an Adjunct Professor at the UNSW School of Social Sciences. Manjula co-founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health in 2012 and advocates against family violence in immigrant communities. Manjula led the public dowry abuse campaign in Australia that led to the inclusion of laws against dowry abuse in the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act and triggered the Federal Senate Enquiry into dowry abuse. She is a member of South Asian Community Ministerial Advisory Council, and aa White Ribbon Advocate. Manjula’s work has been cited in the Victorian Parliament and the Federal Australian Parliament several times. Manjula was a member of the steering group that organised the Second National Dowry Abuse Summit.  

Sara Singh is a Research Assistant at the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN), UNSW Sydney. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from UNSW and has worked across various research projects in the fields of criminology and social work. She is interested in research aimed at informing policy development and best practice responses to individuals and communities impacted by gendered violence and has undertaken research in areas such as domestic and family violence, and economic and financial abuse. In 2020, Sara was awarded a UNSW Scientia PhD scholarship. Her PhD research explores perceptions and experiences of dowry and dowry abuse of women from Indian communities in Australia.