Good Mothers, Bad Mothers: Transnational Mothering in the European Court of Human Rights’ Case Law

In: European Journal of Migration and Law


Transnational mothering presents significant challenges to immigrant women. In addition to the gendered expectations originating from their own communities and cultures, transnational mothers may also have to cope with gendered notions of ‘good parent’ underlying national and European immigration regimes when pursuing family reunification with their children left behind in their countries of origin. Against this background, the European Court of Human Rights can constitute a benchmark for ensuring transnational mothers’ equal access to family reunification vis-à-vis legally sanctioned and gendered models of ‘good mother’, provided that the Court itself is capable of recognizing said models and avoiding to reproduce them. Thus, this article explores the Strasbourg Court’s case-law on transnational parents’ access to family reunification with the aim to unveil the actual capability of the Court to support a gender-sensitive enforcement of national and European family reunification regimes as well as transnational mothers’ access to family reunification in conditions of equality.

  • 1)

    See R. Salazar Parreñas (2005) Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes Stanford CA: Stanford University Press especially p. 103 ff. See also E. Zontini (2010) Transnational Families Migration and Gender: Moroccan and Filipino Women in Bologna and Barcelona New York NY: Berghahn Books; E. Zontini ‘Immigrant Women in Barcelona: Coping with the Consequences of Transnational Lives’ 30 Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2010) 1113–1144.

  • 9)

    See for instance H. Toner (2009) ‘Foreign National Prisoners Deportations and Gender’ in H. Stalford S. Currie and S. Velluti (eds) Gender and Migration in the 21st Century Europe Law and Migration Farnham: Ashgate p. 185 ff.; or A.K. Means (2009) ‘Intercultural Political Identity: Are We There Yet?’ in S. Benhabib and J. Resnik (eds) Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship Borders and Gender New York NY: New York University Press p. 388 ff. See also B. de Hart (2011) ‘Love Thy Neighbour: Family Reunification and the Rights of Insiders’ in E. Guild and P. Minderhoud (eds) The First Decade of EU Migration and Asylum Law Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

  • 54)

    On this point see van Walsum 2009‘Against All Odds’ cit. pp. 308–309.

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