Today the only legal form of prostitution is street walking or private individuals in private homes. Soliciting is illegal as are brothels.
In 2010 case law determined that a client who does not pay a sex-worker for sex can be considered guilty of rape. The minimum age at which a prostitute can work is 18; it is illegal to pay for sex with a prostitute who is under 18.
With increased migration into Italy during the early 1990s street prostitution has become much more visible. Many Eastern European girls arrived first followed later by waves from Nigeria and Peru. Later it was from Moldovia, Lithuania and Albania.
Some were trafficked and some came of their own accord.
Different municipalities have reacted in different ways. Some have targetted the clients, others the sex-workers themselves. Some have set up "safe zones" for prostitution, others applied public order offences to the sex-workers and effectively criminalised prostitution.
There is growin calls for brothels to be legalised as a way of cleaning up the streets and protecting sex-workers. One recent study had 85% support for this move.
Although statistics are difficult to verify, the followin are best estimates:
- 100,000 sex-workers
- 50% of sex-workers are immigrants from 60 different countries
- 65% work the streets
- 35% work private residences
- 20% sex-workers are minors
- 10% sex-workers forced into it by organised gangs
- 6% of female sex-workers are HIV; other reporst suggest this figure is less than 2%
- 20% of transexual sex-workers are HIV
Prostitutes charge an average of 30 euro per customer and generate a turnover of about 90 million euro per month.
Clients are said to number about 9 million with 80% looking for unprotected sex.
A study of Italian prostitutes (as oppose to foreign prostitutes) found that most were well educated with degrees and content with their work. Of these prostitutes, the majority entered the profession by choice and much preferred their own home as safer than street walking.
- 27% were students
- 18% were housewives
- 43% said it was a temporary situation
Prostitution has thrived in Italy for many years. In Venice it was declared "indispensable" in 1358 and courtesans could achieve high social status and standing at the time.
In 1489 Rome's prostitutes reportedly numbered more than 6,800. Pope Sixtus V considered abolishing prostitution in the 16th century but dissuaded when told it would cut the city population in half.
Following unification in 1861 prostitution was regulated and sometimes organised and even run by the state (e.g. in Lombardy). In 1888 a law passed saying brothels could not sell food or drink or operate close to churches or schools. A system of health checks on sex-workers was implemented although never entirely effective. Under the Fascists prostitution was repressed.
In general the system did not work and over time more calls came to abolish regulation of prostitution. Since 1959 brothels and organised prostitution have been banned. It can also not be carried out in public places (hotels, bars, etc).
Following the abolition of brothels, women were forced onto the street.
Different statistics say different things, but estimates put the number of forced sex-workers in the region of around 10% mainly between 17-20 but with some as young as 14 years old. Most are poorly educated (Nigerian women have often not been to school) whilst some are university graduates.
The majority of trafficked women did not engage in prostitution in their home country. In Italy about 80% of those trafficked are working as street prostitutes.
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