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.
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": https://mondointernazionale.com/lo-sfruttamento-lavorativo-delle-donne-migranti-in-italia
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Francesca Oggiano
The sources used to edit this article can be consulted freely: