The Absence of State Law: Domestic Workers in IndiaCanadian Journal of Women and the Law

  • Article Title: The Absence of State Law: Domestic Workers in India
  • Title of Journal: Canadian Journal of Women and the Law
  • Vol #: 23
  • Issue #: 1


The state and existing laws and legal concepts in India are unable to, or refuse to, deal with the specific nature of domestic workers, their workplaces, and their employment relations. The non-recognition of the home as a work place is identified as a critical factor connected to the invisibility and devaluation of care and unpaid domestic work as well as much of women's work in India. The gender, caste, and other social demographics of domestic workers reinforce this invisibility and devaluation, the low wages, and the lack of legal protections. The intricacies of their work relations make simple generalizations impossible, further challenging the formulation of legislation. These are, in turn, embedded in a political economy in which informal, low-paid work, especially for women, is encouraged and expanded, along with unregulated institutions such as placement agencies. The unique features of domestic work also hinder collective action that can play a role in ensuring effective legislative change. While outlining existing laws that can be modified so as to regulate domestic work, this article argues that legal recognition and protection to paid domestic workers will enable and require a fundamental shift in the recognition, valuation, and practices of care, in gendered divisions of work and in economic and social policy in India.

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