The prostitution racket in Italy

A great deal of legislation has been passed on the violation of rights, through the practice of abusing human dignity, in the prostitution racket. Particularly at the international level with the Protocol to the New York Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning trafficking in human beings, pornography and child prostitution. On 12 December 2000, the third Protocol was signed at the Palermo Conference, which discussed the problem of trafficking in order to identify legal and punitive means for traffickers and a system of social and welfare recovery aimed at reintegrating trafficked persons.

What is trafficking?

A very interesting editorial on the official website of the Carabinieri (see sources) described a detailed picture of the phenomenon, explaining that it is a criminal phenomenon consisting essentially of three phases: the first one often appeals to the hopes and desires of migrant girls, who are taken from their place of origin by telling them lies about honest jobs far from the spectre of exploitation, but also often threatening repercussions on family members, when they are not even sold by the family itself; the second moment that appears during this inhumane practice is the transfer by sea or land that often ends in physical and sexual violence; finally, the young women are used as merchandise for the satisfaction of the sexual frustrations of others with a huge financial return for the managers of this hell, and are often also employed in forced labour and domestic slavery. Like a real business, the criminal system is run on several levels: the first level is made up of the organisations that manage and plan the transfer of victims from the country of origin to the country of destination; the second level is made up of the organisations in the transit or border countries with the countries of destination, which provide transport, temporary accommodation and clandestine entry of the victims; finally, at a lower level, there are smaller criminal organisations that act on behalf of higher-level groups in the activities of recruitment, transport and entry of victims. The primary objective of the racket, just as for any other reality that we could define as 'entrepreneurial', is the maximisation of profit and prostitution is a means that produces a lot of it: the organisers do not have to make further 'investments', while the clients see their demand satisfied every time, without the slightest consideration for the suffering of the abused lives.

In Italy

Law No. 75/1958, also known as the "Merlin Law" after the name of Senator Lina Merlin, promoter and first signatory, abolished the regulation of prostitution and still fights against the crimes of exploitation and abetting prostitution, also to become part of the United Nations. Many 'houses of tolerance' were used as support centres and shelters for former prostitutes.

Around the middle of the 1980s, there was a sharp fall in the domestic prostitution market because the Italian girls who were drug addicts, due to the devastating problem of AIDS, were replaced, especially in the Centre-North, by young girls mainly of Nigerian origin, with the conviction that their younger age made infection with HIV impossible. Girls of a nationality other than Italian were exponentially exploited, involving in an increasingly globalising manner not only those from the African continent, but also from Eastern Europe and all those disadvantaged countries, where the economic aspect was bad.

At present, Italy is considered both a transit and an arrival country, also because of its strategic geographical position.

Nigerian girls are often subjected to psychological blackmail with the promise of special 'woodo rituals' against those who decide to break off relations without paying the agreed sum for clandestine transportation. For them, prostitution is the quickest way to recover the sum that ensures their freedom from their tormentors.

Even behind the apparent "voluntary" choice of the girls in prostitution lies the need to sever their relationship with the organisation as quickly as possible and lay the foundations for building a new life.

I recommend reading the text written by Chiara Landolfo on “Labour exploitation of migrant women in Italy":

Translated by Francesca Cioffi

Original version by Francesca Oggiano

The sources used to edit this article can be consulted freely:

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  • L'Autore

    Francesca Oggiano

    Mi chiamo Francesca Oggiano e sono una studentessa iscritta al corso di “Scienze Internazionali ed Istituzioni Europee” presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano.

    Da sempre la scrittura mi permette di rendere reale ciò che nasce come pensiero astratto, ed in particolare lo studio di materie giuridiche, economiche e sociali, improntate verso una visione internazionale, ha consolidato in me la necessità di voler raccontare ciò che accade nel mondo attraverso la ricerca di usi e tradizioni appartenenti a luoghi diversi e lontani dal nostro quotidiano.

    Sono venuta a conoscenza della realtà “Mondo Internazionale” e da subito mi ha incuriosita il fatto che si trattasse di ragazzi giovani impegnati a creare uno spazio che permettesse loro di credere in qualcosa di grande ed ho così deciso di voler fare anche io la mia parte.

    Insieme al meraviglioso Team che si occupa del progetto “TrattaMi Bene”, ho la possibilità di esprimermi riguardo a temi che da sempre mi appassionano e mi stanno a cuore, come i diritti umani e la violenza di genere, e che mai più di ora penso debbano essere divulgati fra le generazioni. Credo profondamente nel valore dello scambio comunicativo e sono convinta che con la forza della conoscenza e dell’informazione si possa crescere e migliorare, sia come individui che come Comunità.

    My name is Francesca Oggiano and I am currently a student of International Studies and European Institutions at the University of Milan.

    Writing has always allowed me to translate abstract thoughts into concrete realities and studying subjects like law, economics and social sciences, especially when marked by an international directory, has strengthen in me the need to tell what happens in the world through specific research of traditions belonging to places that are diverse and far from our daily life.

    I came across “Mondo Internazionale” and the fact that it involved young people engaged in creating a space that would let them believe in something greater made me curious from the very beginning; hence, I decided that I also wanted to give my contribution to this project.

    Together with the wonderful team of the “TrattaMi Bene”, I have the chance to express my ideas on themes that have always been close to my heart and that deeply interest me, such as human rights and gendered violence, and that I am certain now more than ever need to be discussed through generations. I strongly believe in the importance of communicative exchanges and I am committed to the idea that, thanks to the power of knowledge and information, one can grow and get better both as an individual and as a community.


From the World Europe Sections Human Rights Society


sfruttamento sfruttamento prostituzione woman rights

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