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“No to Free Sex”: Transnational Women Migrants and Indonesia’s AIDS Prevention Efforts

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Transnational migration has been associated with HIV transmission. Although there was optimism that HIV rates are on the decline, the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS epidemic has documented that there are still significant gaps in many parts of the world in response to the problem. Particularly low-paid unskilled migrant workers face a greater risk in becoming infected with HIV with women being especially vulnerable because of their gendered identity and the nature of the work sector they enter. Fully aware of the threat of the spread of HIV as a result of mobility, the Indonesian government has integrated an HIV component into the mandatory pre-departure programme promulgated in 2005 for women migrants. Largely Indonesian women take on employment abroad in the domestic work sector. In analysing the HIV component of the programme within the larger pre-departure programme, this paper critiques the underlying assumption that the programme actively informs these women migrants on HIV prevention since abstinence and saying “no” to sex outside marriage are the concepts that are constantly emphasized. Based on participant observation of the pre-departure programme and in-depth interviews with government officials, international and local NGO staff in Indonesia and twenty Indonesian domestic workers employed in Singapore, the paper asserts that the programme does little to empower these women but instead in focusing on individual sexual behaviour, it tends to be victim blaming. 

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We’re Turning 100!

To mark our centennial in the fall of 2024, the Maxwell School will hold special events and engagement opportunities to celebrate the many ways—across disciplines and borders—our community ever strives to, as the Oath says, “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Throughout the year leading up to the centennial, engagement opportunities will be held for our diverse, highly accomplished community that now boasts more than 38,500 alumni across the globe.