Prostitution, the Nordic model does not like sex workers: the important thing is to discuss it

by Roberta Ravello

The senator Alessandra Maiorino (M5S) presented a bill last April, the 2537, entitled “Amendments to the law February 20, 1958, n. 75 and other provisions on the abolition of prostitution ”which, if approved, would impose fines on clients of those who work in the sex of between 1,500 and 5,000 euros. In case of recidivism for people already warned, the penalty would become imprisonment from six months to three years, with a fine ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 euros.

A proposal, then presented at a recent conference on prostitution in the Senate, entitled “Is Italy ready for the Nordic model?” which has been criticized both by the Radical Party and by Pia Covrea former prostitute, activist and trade unionist who has long been committed to promoting the protection of the rights of male and female sex workers.

The initiative in the intentions should lead to the adoption of the so-called Nordic model, which discourages demand by fining customers. This model is already in place in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, France and soon also in Spain. The Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Family Elena Bonetti she said she was in favor, but those who practice the trade as a choice, not as a victim of trafficking, could have contrary ideas. For example, there is an international movement to decriminalize prostitution, see the document here released in 2015 by the Open Society Foundations. Such prostitution liberals argue that decriminalizing would help to protect sex workers by maximizing the legal protection of those affected and their ability to exercise other fundamental rights, including justice and health care. Legal recognition of this occupation would maximize protection, dignity and equality of those who choose to exercise it, rescuing these people from the violence protected by the stigma.

As for the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, they argue that the legalization, subject to rules, would help to denounce and prosecute pimps and the trafficking racket. Furthermore, it would oblige states to inform campaigns on rights and to invest in the protection and health of female and male sex workers. A bit like the cannabis legalization policy which, in the eyes of the promoters, would help defeat the organized crime which takes advantage of the illegality of the distribution of so-called soft drugs.

Whatever the best, decriminalizing voluntary prostitution or criminalizing clients, surely the status quo only helps crime. In fact, at present, prostitution exists; real, solid paths, known and promoted by the institutions to help victims to report, and for their reintegration into the world of legal work, there are none. The victims – the most fragile part of the people who practice prostitution – are left alone to suffer not only a job they have not chosen, but also the social stigma of isolation, the eventual violence of clients in the face of near impunity or legitimacy cultural to the brutality (harms or pariahs, deprived of rights) and the difficulty in finding a different path. So, whether Italy is ready or not for the Nordic model rather than another model, it is certainly ready to tackle the problem which, if not discussed by all parties involved, becomes a gift to crime.

I do not take sides either on one side or the other, if not with the vulnerable victims and invisible, mostly foreign women, often even minors who, talking about the phenomenon and looking for some solution that is not only the help of the few humanitarian organizations active on the subject, would only benefit.

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