Struggles over the Rights of Foreign Domestic Workers in Malaysia: The possibilities and limitations of “rights talk"
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This article considers the possibilities and limitations that the employment of human rights discourse poses for organizations in Malaysia involved in migrant domestic worker issues. Because domestic employment is such an overwhelmingly feminized occupation, one logical avenue of enquiry is to analyse these organizations' adoption of 'rights talk' from a critical feminist perspective. The case-study research presented in this article suggests that activist groups are keen to adopt the language of human rights and make reference to international human rights standards in their work. The questions that frame this paper, therefore, are: to what extent does the engagement with the language of human rights by the activist groups challenge mainstream discourses of human rights that tend to exclude marginalized groups of women? And, when we make migrant domestic workers the subject of human rights claims, what then are the implications for human rights practice? It is suggested that the activities of activist organizations can play a role in destabilizing universalistic notions of human rights. Specifically, I highlight the ways in which campaigns to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers contain implicit critiques of both the public/private divide upon which mainstream human rights standards have been developed and the problematic relationship between rights and citizenship.
Economy and Society
Copyright 2008 Routledge. This is an electronic version of an article published in Economy and Society, Vol. 37(2), 2008, pp. 282-303. Economy and Society is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com with the open URL of your article.
Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific