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Vulnerability, Freedom of Choice and Structural Global Injustices: The “Consent” to Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers

Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST,volume 18)

Abstract

This chapter analyzes the philosophical implications related to the “position of vulnerability” defined by the Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims as “a situation in which the person concerned has no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved” (art. 2.2). In particular, the chapter focuses on the “choice” made by migrant women employed in care and domestic work and in the agricultural sector in Italy. The Italian labor market is marked by the exploitation of migrant women, especially women from Romania, due to social, economic and legal factors that will be considered from a gender perspective. Women’s rights violations often have significant consequences for the effective protection of children’s rights. The “choice” of these women with respect to their decision to emigrate and their “consent” to exploitative working and living conditions are explored by drawing on interviews collected in Sicily and Venice between 2014 and 2016. Different paradigms of “choice” and “adaptive preference” are analyzed to identify a theoretical model that can grasp these migrant women’s experience. On the basis of the analysis, the last section focuses on the actors responsible for the violation of the rights of migrant women and their children within the Italian labor market.

Act in such a way that you treat huma1nity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end

Kant (1993 [1785]: 36)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I refer, for instance, to the famous revolt of Rosarno in Southeast Italy in 2010 (Saviano 2010).

  2. 2.

    See, for instance, what happened in the “Gran Ghetto” in Rignano Garganico (Apulia, Italy) in March 2017, where two Malian refugees died after a fire (Kirchgaessner 2017).

  3. 3.

    For an in-depth analysis of the interviews, see Sciurba (2015).

  4. 4.

    For a complete analysis of the innovative profiles of this Directive, see Gianmarinaro (2012) and Palumbo (2014).

  5. 5.

    Interview conducted in Palermo on 3 March 2013.

  6. 6.

    Interview conducted in Palermo on 17 October 2014.

  7. 7.

    Interview conducted in Venice on 20 June 2013.

  8. 8.

    Interview conducted in Venice on 20 June 2013.

  9. 9.

    The Italian verb “badare” simply means “to look after” someone or something. It is quite disqualifying for care workers, whose job concerns several different activities and competences, both relational and professional (often including nursing care). At the same time, this word is disqualifying for the person they care for as it hides the different levels of autonomy of the assisted person as well as the level of interaction and relationship with the person who takes care. In general, the term “badare” undervalues the complexity of care relations and activities along with its emotional implications. Yet, “badante” is the most diffused definition for these women, and it has a sort of racial implication as it refers to non-Italian workers.

  10. 10.

    Children left behind are the consequence of a global phenomenon related to international labor migration . See, e.g., Parreñas (2005).

  11. 11.

    Interview conducted in Venice on 5 April 2012.

  12. 12.

    Interview conducted in Palermo on 3 March 2013.

  13. 13.

    Interview conducted in Venice on 27 March 2012.

  14. 14.

    For an analysis of the complex violation of children’s rights to receive care, see Sciurba (2012, 2015).

  15. 15.

    See footnote 5.

  16. 16.

    Interview collected in Ragusa on 29 March 2014.

  17. 17.

    Idem.

  18. 18.

    Interview collected in Ragusa on 28 March 2014.

  19. 19.

    For a comprehensive overview of this issue, see Williams, G., Responsibility, in Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (http://www.iep.utm.edu/responsi/, last accessed February 26, 2017).

  20. 20.

    For a detailed overview of the concept of “structural injustice” and its connection with gendered structures and migration , see, in this volume, Uhde (2017).

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Sciurba, A. (2019). Vulnerability, Freedom of Choice and Structural Global Injustices: The “Consent” to Exploitation of Migrant Women Workers. In: Velasco, J., La Barbera, M. (eds) Challenging the Borders of Justice in the Age of Migrations. Studies in Global Justice, vol 18. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05590-5_12

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