Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mary Gibson

Committee Members

Marta Petrusewicz

Jane Schneider

Julia Sneeringer

David Troyansky

Subject Categories

European History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | History | Oral History | Women's History | Women's Studies


History of southern Italy and the Southern Question, women and gender studies, Sexual violence and Rape Culture


The term fuitina in Sicilian dialect is a word used to describe a form of abduction, and is a variation of the more formal Italian term fuga, meaning a flight or escape. Fuitina, was essentially a sanctioned bride theft. Often, after the abduction of a woman, the abductor would seek a reparatory or rehabilitating marriage that would restore the woman’s “honor” and absolve the man of bride theft. Until 1981, the Italian legal system supported the practice of fuitina and rarely prosecuted men who kidnapped and raped women under the guise of this tradition. The practice of fuitina and the laws that enabled it, seem antiquated and brutal by today’s standards, but an investigation into the practice reveals a very nuanced custom. This dissertation explores the interplay between two types of fuitina, nonconsensual and consensual. Furthermore, the custom of fuitina creates a framework through which to analyze the history, law, and cultural evolution of women’s rights and emancipation in Italy. By examining the various manifestations of fuitina, this work positions the tradition as an evolving practice situated at the intersection of gender violence and sexual autonomy. Fuitina is a lens to examine the evolution of sex, gender, and female bodily rights in the post-fascist era, 1945 to the present, by examining a complicated process of national transformation that impacted the law, popular morality, and everyday attitudes regarding sex and gender norms. After the Second World War, life in Italy underwent massive transformation. This dissertation uses the island of Sicily as a case study to explore fuitina and considers its complexities and evolution in both perception and practice. This study tracks how the practice changed over time to accommodate new laws, cultural norms, economic structures, and the rise of a new feminist consciousness in the 1970s. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that fuitina is more than just an expression of patriarchal authority; it can also be utilized by individuals as a form of resistance against traditional social norms and hierarchies. This project demonstrates that there is no single definition of fuitina and complicates popular representations of the practice as an archaic and oppressive tradition often associated with southern Italy, in particular the island of Sicily. Overall this dissertation demonstrates that though on the one hand, fuitina is a manifestation of a violent and oppressive patriarchal system, it can also be used by individuals for claiming sexual autonomy. In some cases, it gives individuals agency over their own private lives and has contributed to the democratization of marriage and sexual relations in Italy in the post-fascist era.