In 1998, Italy passed a law (Article 18) granting “victims of human trafficking” temporary residence permits to “escape from situations of violence and abuse.” There were two conditions: the applicant had to agree to pursue criminal action against her exploiter and to participate in a state-funded “rehabilitation” program mostly offered by Catholic groups engaged in combating criminality and foreign prostitution as a form of “modern slavery.” Linking prostitution to female migration and slavery has significant implications for how migrant women are interpellated within the receiving country. When characterized as victims, these women are figured as lacking the dual capacities of desiring migration and appropriating laws that grant legal recognition. This article explores both the willed and imposed multiplicity of subject positions of these women within the fields of charitable and institutional languages. In Italy, qualifying as a “political refugee” or as a “victim of human trafficking” is often the only means of achieving the legal rights necessary to avoid repatriation. [translation, citizenship, migration, subjectivity, ethnopsychiatry, Italy, anthropology of institutions]
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