Already in 2012, the European Union undertook the first international research project on the customers’ demand of women’s bodies as sex objects. A commission of inquiry has been working on this question for the last four years in France, leading to the introduction of punishment against the customers in the country. Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Northern Ireland and other non-European States including Canada aligned for legal sanctions against purchasers/buyers of women’s bodies, whereas England and Ireland are considering their introduction. From this point of view, the grass is definitely greener on the other side.
The European research shows clearly that most customers see women who offer sexual services as “different from the others” (“the normal ones”), and say that do not want people who are dear to them, friends or a relatives, to ever get involved in that. Almost a third of the clients reported that they witnessed situations of obvious exploitation and have come across minors, but very few of them have considered the possibility of making a complaint to the police, whereas a fairly high number of customers have proven to be knowledgeable about the phenomenon of trafficking. Do we really think today that Italians can ignore the victims of their desires?
Legal tools to effectively contrast the demand for prostitution and the evils it brings about are still missing in Italy; the current Italian legislation does not intervene to cover with deterrent measures and/or sanctions the always “abusive” and “violent” plague of the customers who exploit the social marginalization and vulnerability of women both in the street and at home.
We hope a bill will be soon proposed, as it has been publicly announced in recent times –, which will finally take a step towards the protection of gender equality and of women’s dignity. Today more than ever, the time is ripe, considering the changes going on in the international scenario of prostitution, where the deepest, essential legal values – some of the fundamental and inalienable human rights – are being corroded.
The need to protect these “high” legal interests cannot but change the functions and limits of punitive sanctions. It is time to think of new criminal offenses to make clients liable in the context of prostitution, narrowly speaking, by identifying the criminal elements within this specific context. In fact, we can no longer disregard the minimum threshold of the necessary social stigmatizing, according to national and international standards. We cannot – and must not – wait any longer!
And we need to make women’s voices reach those who in recent past have spoken out their rather backward ideas. We remind once again that sex industry, pornography, and child pornography, are always in need of young victims who can be “consumed”, of old sexist stereotypes, of the gap between the north and south of the world, and of the vulnerability of human beings.
Every business concerning women’s body is based on crime and abuse. Violence against women is a complex phenomenon that feeds on chains that are not always visible; prostitution is a close relative of rape, where there is no desire, no free sexual act.
Those who think that legalizing brothels means defeating mafias and human trafficking are more than simply disillusioned. The ethical reasoning of those who delude themselves into thinking that we can make up some empty State coffers at women’s expense is foggy, but above all, they suffer from a kind of “new illiteracy” or pseudo-modernism which is nothing but “a return to barbarism” compared to the achievements of the treaties, international conventions, and human rights. Italy’s so-called ‘Merlin Law’ pioneered defense of humanity at times when Europe when women were still second-class citizens in Europe. The others were lagging behind and are painfully still doing so, and today they “lap” Italy on the racetrack.
If a stub dropped on the ground or on a terrace leads to huge fines, then a few questions arise: There is much more at stake here, isn’t it? How can a marginalized, poor, and enslaved woman forced to sell her body not be worth a punitive sanction? PMs of both sexes should lay down their ideological flags, abhor prostitution, unite in defense of women, and become a wall against those people who flaunt a satisfied chuckle for abusing vices.