Sex Work

In Italy, prostitution is contained in the penal code which has  national application.  Although not stated explicitly, prostitution is neither illegal nor legal in Italy. The Merlin Act of 1958 shut down the State-run brothels and freed women from mandatory registration and medical check-ups. However, in its spirit and intent, the law is abolitionist. And it imposes numerous restrictions on sex workers, Therefore sex workers are forced to work in legally marginal conditions, whether at home or on the street.

In Italy, it is prohibited to work in closed quarters of any sort. However, in practice, private apartments that contain only one sex worker are “tolerated”. It is prohibited to induce, to facilitate, aid or abet, and, naturally, exploit anyone who does sex work.

Prostitution in closed quarters is prohibited. Article 3, comma 1 of the law lists such places as houses, hotels, dancing halls, entertainment clubs or other areas open to the public. In addition, whoever aids and abets a woman (The law deals solely with women.) in prostitution either by letting a house or a building, or tolerates the presence of prostitutes in bars, clubs, dance halls, or other public facilities, employs any person to work as a prostitute is severely punished, as prescribed in the penal code for the offence of aiding and abetting (Article 3, comma 8). The offence of aiding and abetting is applicable even to those who help a sex worker on the street.

The law lists soliciting¾it is now a pecuniary sanction¾ as a crime in those cases of unabashedly inviting clients on the streets, yet it does not prohibit loitering whilst awaiting street clients.

Furthermore, sexual exploitation executed in any manner, form, or means is expressly prohibited and is liable for punishment, and, in particular, greater severity in sentencing is applied for the exploitation of minors, the disabled, and those persons under one’s guardianship. The criminal offence of exploitation may also be applied against even the partners that cohabit with or marry a sex worker, especially if these persons are unable to demonstrate gainful employment that produces sufficient income for their individual autonomy.

The law prohibits any form of mandatory examinations for sex workers, like periodical medical checkups and police registration. (Article 7)

In actuality, the State wants to prohibit or drastically reduce street prostitution.

Yet, as seen in the Merlin law of 1958, soliciting was once a criminal offence but, since 1999, soliciting has become a simple tort, which is punishable by a mulct (fine) that is handed out by municipal officials. In the Minister Maroni’s security package, special powers have been granted to mayors since June 2008 to confront an emergency of any kind that might endanger the security and decorum of the cities; therefore, sex workers and their clients have become the subject of special ordinances that consent municipal policemen to hand out fines ranging from €400/€500. In addition, this new public security law enables the territorial Chief Constable (quaestor) to impose and to enforce a mandatory expulsion of a person from a city where she is not an official resident thereof.

At this moment, foreigners in violation of these ordinances who are citizens of other European states are given fines, whereas non-Europeans, especially those from Africa, are carted off to temporary detention/identification centres, in accordance with the laws on immigration, and subsequently deported.

The issue of human trafficking has been dealt with by Italian Law 40/1998, Immigration Act, and by the related Legislative Decree N° 286/1998 against human trafficking, and Law N°. 228/08 August 2003 against slavery. Both provide for lengthy sentences for whomever introduces foreign nationals into the country for the purpose of inducing them into sex work or exploitation thereof. (Article 18 ex 16). In addition to its repressive aspects, the law also provides for social protection of the victims of this form of exploitation.

Law N° 228 law more precisely defines the crime and it  extends the concept of subjugation, to include acts and purposes other than sexual exploitation. It also reinforces punishment for criminal-organisation racketeering and trafficking.

 There are two ways to qualify for the provisions of Article 18. The first way is to denounce one’s exploiters to the police. The second way is to escape from serious threats of violence. However, the second option is little used and, generally, the victim is expected to denounce the criminal group that is exploiting her.