Friday, October 25, 2002

Shasta Darlington

Bill targets streetwalkers and their clients

ROME — Thousands of prostitutes and their clients could be swept off Italy's streets under tough legislation proposed by the center-right government.

A draft bill, to be put before the cabinet Thursday, is designed to get rid of the swarms of scantily-clad streetwalkers invading middle-class suburbs and loitering on highways throughout Italy, its proponents said Wednesday.

But they said the proposals would make life easier for prostitutes who work indoors.

Under the bill streetwalkers would face a fine of up to 3,000 euros for a first offence, while a second could land them in jail. Their clients would face a fine of up to 1,000 euros for a first offence and up to 2,000 for a second. Police could also confiscate cars of clients busted more than once.

The bill would clear the way for prostitutes to work indoors in what have been dubbed "co-operatives," although it stops short of legalizing brothels, as proposed by some lawmakers.

"The most important thing about the bill is that it gives women the opportunity to work out of homes in a kind of co-operative without exploiters and pimps," Alessandra Mussolini, a lawmaker for the center-right National Alliance party, told Reuters. Mussolini, granddaughter of wartime Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, helped prepare the law along with Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini and two other government ministers.

Prostitution is not a crime in Italy, but exploiting practitioners of the sex trade is illegal and many social activists say it sometimes borders on slavery.

Crime rings put many illegal immigrants on the streets where they can control them more easily, collect profits and draw more clients.

More than half the country's 70,000 prostitutes work outdoors, often catering to clients in cars or parks.

Crack-down on pimps

Under the bill, women could work out of their homes or in small "co-operatives" and landlords would not be penalized for renting to prostitutes.

But pimps and organized crime rings exploiting prostitution would face harsher jail terms.

However, the legislation faces a tough fight in parliament where it will have to be approved in both the upper and lower houses. "We think the legislation serves as a guide but it could still be significantly modified," Mussolini said.

Some lawmakers want prostitution to be made illegal in all cases. But the center-left opposition says laws should target only those who exploit prostitutes, such as organized crime gangs.

"Punishment is wrong because those who work (on the streets) are already the weakest people," Livia Turco, a minister in the previous center-left government, told Corriere della Sera newspaper Wednesday.

"Street prostitution should be discouraged but it should be regulated."

But almost all lawmakers have come out against proposals to bring back state-controlled brothels, abolished in 1958.

They saw their heyday under Mussolini when ladies of the night entertained in brothels and even traveled to war zones for soldiers.

[World 2002] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: November 14, 2002
Last modified: November 15, 2002
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710