Friday, June 14, 2024
Women Resisting Violence book WRV Collective

Chapter 5:  ‘I have rights and I am free’ - Resisting gendered intersectional violence against Latin American migrant women

This chapter, by Cathy McIlwaine, highlights the types of gendered violence experienced by migrant women from Latin America and the challenges they face in securing help and support within hostile immigration environments underpinned by racialized state interventions. It discusses how Latin American migrant women develop informal ways of addressing violence and exclusion, and the collective initiatives of migrants’ and women’s rights organizations who support survivors of gender-based violence.

We Still Fight in the Dark Migrants in Action King's College London People's Palace Projects and Latin American Women's Aid

About the author

Cathy McIlwaine is Professor of Geography at King’s College London. Her research focuses on issues of gender, poverty and violence in cities of the global South, and on migration and gendered violence among the Latin American community in London. She works collaboratively with a range of organizations and artists in Brazil and London.


Domestic Abuse Bill Deb (2020), c25, 4 June,

Jiménez-Yáñez, E. and McIlwaine, C. (2021) ‘Charity researcher collaborations are key to ending gender-based violence’, Latin America Bureau, 9 December,

McIlwaine, C. (2014) ‘Everyday urban violence and transnational displacement of Colombian urban migrants to London’, Environment and Urbanization 26(2), pp. 417–426,

McIlwaine, C. (2019) ‘Latin Americans in the UK: an increasingly visible population’, SLAS,

McIlwaine, C. (2020) ‘Living in fear during the COVID-19 crisis: migrant women with insecure immigration status and domestic violence’, KCL,

McIlwaine, C. (2021a) ‘Memories of violence against women and girls across borders’, in: Boesten, J. and Scanlon, H. (eds.) Gender and memorial arts. London: Routledge, pp. 211–229,

McIlwaine, C (2021b) ‘Organisations | LAWRS | Step up migrant women campaign’, Latin America Bureau, 15 September,

McIlwaine, C. and Bunge, D. (2016) ‘Towards visibility: the Latin American community in London’

McIlwaine, C. and Evans, Y. (2018) ‘We can’t fight in the dark: violence against women and girls (vawg) among Brazilians in London’,

McIlwaine, C. and Evans, Y. (2020) ‘Urban Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in transnational perspective: reflections from Brazilian women in London’, International Development Planning Review 42(1), pp. 93–112,

McIlwaine, C. and Evans, E. (2022) ‘Navigating migrant infrastructure and gendered infrastructural violence: reflections from Brazilian women in London’, Gender, Place and Culture,

McIlwaine, C., Granada, L. and Valenzuela-Oblitas, I. (2019) ‘The right to be believed’, LAWRS

Munz, M. (2022), interview with Marilyn Thomson, 6 May, London (email correspondence).

National Domestic Workers Alliance (2018) Living in the shadows: Latina domestic workers in the Texas-Mexico border region. New York: National Domestic Workers Alliance,

Ryburn, M. (2021) ‘I don’t want you in my country: migrants navigating borderland violences between Colombia and Chile’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, pp. 1–17,

Stevens, S., Le Cornec, G. and McIlwaine, C. (2021) ‘What is activist art? Sophie Stevens interviews Gaël Le Cornec and Cathy McIlwaine’, in: de Madeiros, A. and Kelly, D. (eds.) Language debates: theory and reality in language learning, teaching and research. London: John Murray Press

Related podcast episode

Women Resisting Violence: 3. Step Up Migrant Women

‘If you don’t have the right to request emergency help from public services, how are you going to survive?’

Gil migrated to the UK from Brazil with her partner and children as a tourist, and subsequently became undocumented. When she fled abuse, she was met with hostility by UK police and ended up homeless with a child in mid-December. Finding the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) changed her life and Gil now works on the group's Step Up Migrant Women Campaign to highlight the vulnerability of migrant women with insecure immigration status in situations of domestic abuse. LAWRS also works with Migrants in Action (MinA), a community theatre group dedicated to Brazilian women in London who have experienced gender violence. Through theatre, they build a sense of community, understand and break cycles of violence and raise their visibility as migrant women.

Women Resisting Violence Episode 3 Step Up Migrant Women London

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