Precarious Workers and Probationary Wives: How Immigration Law Discriminates Against Women

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Immigration law prescribes a range of statuses into one of which individuals must try to fit to be allowed entry. This range establishes a hierarchy from highly advantageous forms of permission to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to ones to which few rights accrue, which create dependency or are precarious. Against the backdrop of this hierarchy, I make two claims: that women are disadvantaged by immigration law’s distribution of migration statuses; and, that this disadvantage is the result of rules which indirectly discriminate against women, discrimination which may be unlawful under Article 14 ECHR. As it is well-established that indirect discrimination may be revealed by statistical information, I rely on data from over 10 years to demonstrate that certain migration opportunities are distributed differently to women and men. This distribution is then subjected to scrutiny, potential ‘justifications’ for it, including those premised on sexed/gendered stereotypes, being analysed and refuted. Finally, an understanding of women’s disadvantageous and discriminatory treatment in relation to the family and labour migration routes considered, is combined with a broader consideration of gendered patterns of migration and the statuses that such patterns produce, to found the normative claim that immigration law as whole disadvantages women.




Briddick, C. (2020). Precarious Workers and Probationary Wives: How Immigration Law Discriminates Against Women. Social and Legal Studies, 29(2), 201–224.

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