Doctoral Fellow to research legal protection of migrant domestic workers

02 March 2017

Doctoral candidate Sophie Henderson has been announced as the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law Doctoral Fellow for 2017.

The 24-year-old legal scholar from the United Kingdom has already been awarded a prestigious University of Auckland International Doctoral Scholarship to undertake a PhD at Auckland Law School.

Her doctoral thesis will examine the legal rights and protections in place for female migrant domestic workers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Having extensively travelled around Asia, Sophie chose to investigate workers from these two countries in particular as both states are a major source of female migrant domestic workers who are employed overseas.

Sophie’s focus will be on the entire migration process – before, during and post migration – in order to identify where different types of abuse can occur at each stage. She will examine and compare the legal frameworks in place in each country, and assess the impact of these policies on women migrant domestic workers in terms of the increased vulnerability to abuse by employers and recruitment agencies during migration.

“Migrant domestic workers are in a uniquely vulnerable position. They often work and live in private households, where their working conditions can be hidden from the authorities. They are frequently overworked, underpaid and undervalued,” says Sophie.

“I want to look at the policies and regulations in place in the worker’s home countries designed to protect them, with the view to analysing their effectiveness. In particular, I will be using the concept of structural violence as a means of exploring institutional forms of violence carried out by the sending states against these workers.”

Sophie, who already has a Bachelor of Laws and a Masters of Criminal Law with Distinction from the University of Leeds, says the aim of her doctoral research is “to identify any gaps in the protection of migrant domestic workers and advocate for their reduction.” Following her PhD, Sophie hopes to pursue a career in academia as a lecturer and researcher in Law.

Her doctorate, which will take three years to complete, is being supervised by Professor Jane Kelsey and Lecturer Dr Jane Norton.
Sophie officially begins her Fellowship on 6 March. During her doctoral studies she will also be employed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for four hours a week in the School of Law.