Geography & Environment Publications

A Report on Gender Discrimination in South Africa's 2002 Immigration Act: Masculinizing the Migrant

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Feminist Review

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Changes in immigration policy and legislation have the power to shape and alter the gendering of migration in significant ways, and can have a dramatic effect on the lives and relationships of the men, women and families involved. In this paper, we examine the provisions of the new Immigration Act introduced in South Africa in 2002. The Act, which replaces the outdated Aliens Control Act of 1991, gives considerable cause for concern on gender grounds. Foremost, the Act entrenches a system of male-dominated regional labour migration that has its origins in the 19th-century discovery of gold and diamonds. The male bias in the work permit and other employment-based categories along with the limits to family reunification for those entering for work are likely in effect to discriminate against women to a greater extent than men. While similar gender concerns are common to most immigration policy regimes around the world, the particular circumstances of the South African case, where both skilled and unskilled migration streams are heavily male-dominated, makes them especially acute here. This paper contextualizes migration regimes in South Africa and examines in detail the likely implications of the new Immigration Act.