By Anne-Lise Verge, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
Charles Foaurier, a French utopian socialist of the 18th century, argued that assessing women’s conditions and integration into a certain society is a very specific way of evaluating the degree of social oppression present in that society. In the year 2012, 70,000 young girls were threatened with forced marriage in France, and 35,000 suffered sexual mutilations. Therefore, according to Fourier’s argument, it seems that social development is actually decreasing alongside an alarming escalation of social oppression within France. In recent years, French historians have begun to question the issue of gender within the immigration system. From 2002 to 2004, the seminar on immigration social history dealt with a specific topic: “Gender Migratory; Women in Migration”. A new debate appeared on the national stage: what role does gender play among immigrants?
The feminist law students who developed the idea during the 1970s developed several approaches to this issue. They proposed an analysis of different types of migration whilst highlighting the link between right to asylum, domestic policy, and the question of the integration of immigrants as citizens. They explained that regular analyses have a tendency to focus solely on the role of the state, whilst collaboration between public and private institutions is essential.
Despite this, there have been very few studies made on the genuine impact of policies on administrative practices. Nevertheless, a great number of women have raised the issue, stating they are suffering from a two-pronged type of violence: on the one hand, the violence they endure due to their sex, and on the other hand, the violence they are subjected to as foreigners.
Immigrant women in France are currently stereotyped as mothers, wives or sisters, as people who remain at home to take care of their family and their homes. They are not considered to be individuals with wishes, aspirations and dreams; or at least this is the way the media views women migrants. Thus, the state does not offer them the opportunity to participate in public life or to have a profession.
An immigrant woman is someone from whom much is expected, such as maintaining family stability and relaying values to the younger generations, yet despite this, very little importance is placed on her education and her socioeconomic integration. The national obliviousness to the socio-cultural role of migrant women goes along with a strong ignorance of their conditions and their wishes.
Photo: Oxfam, Gender issues