“My name is Giorgia, I am 24 and I come from Romania. I am here today to tell and sadly recall a painful period of my life. I was 17 when I came to Italy. I was brought here by people I considered to be friends of my family. They had promised me a job and I accepted, given that the situation of my family was difficult. We had no money and not every day there was food on our table. I was to find out only later that they sold me like an object and that I became someone’s property. They beat, threatened and tortured me to force me into prostitution. There are still marks on my body, especially on my ears, which my pimps brutally cut. One night I was physically and psychologically annihilated. I had to drag myself to get into a customer’s car. I felt too dirty and ugly because they had pulled my hair out and you could see the skin beneath… My hands were injured, so were my knees. I also had holes in my belly because they jumped on me wearing stiletto heels. Yet, these men you call customers are people like me who go to the grocery store, buy something they need, who feel the need to take control of things… Thus, I too have become a thing to buy, as if they went to a butcher’s shop. I will never understand how a person who calls himself man cannot take pity on a girl who is bleeding, crying, and suffering. How can one pretend that nothing is wrong and ask her to have sex with him while she is crying and her body is hurt? In my opinion, these customers will never be men, but inhuman, heartless people. It pains me when people talk of prostitution as if it were a job… It is a torture, in my own experience and in the experience of many other young women whom I will meet today with Pope John community, together with Father Aldo, on the streets to convince them to quit this hell, find the courage to run away. It is not easy, but it will be possible if the State, those in power, have the will to make laws to stop these brutal people. When they beat me, I hoped someone would come and free me from this trap. When the police has finally come months later, I felt truly happy. They took me straight to the hospital, then to this community. I hope this bill whose aim is to stop the customers of these slaves becomes truly the beginning of a great hope in Italy, giving young women their freedom back. Thank you”.
These strong and touching words of one of the hundreds of girls rescued from the terrible slavery of the roads thanks to Pope John XXIII Community founded by Father Oreste Benzi. Giorgia’s cry echoed in the House during the presentation of a bill desired by the MP Catherine Bini from the Democratic Party, with the participation of other colleagues from different parties.
The bill builds on the already existing laws in other European countries, and in the Italian case, it asks to amend Article 3 of the law of 20 February 1958 to introduce punishments for anyone who uses the sexual services of a person practicing prostitution.
“This bill was created with the collaboration of Pope John XXIII Community and some groups of Pistoia scout – MP Bini, the first signatory of the bill, said -. Our main idea is going against the trend of many other laws that are lying in the Parliament at present, some of which provide for the legalization of prostitution. Whereas we think that women are a victim of trafficking and exploitation, and we need to come down hard on the customer, because the offer will decline only if we reduce demand. This is where this bill comes from, it springs from the work of Father Oreste, from desire to build a new project, which has already been adopted in some Nordic countries.”
A bill aimed at punishing clients, which recognizes in these girls, forced to sell themselves on the Italian roads, the victims of a racket that moves millions of euros every year. For over 30 years now, the Community has been fighting alongside the victims of trafficking and exploitation. According to estimation, there are between 75,000 and 120,000 of them in Italy: 65% of them are forced into prostitution in the streets and 37% are under age, mostly between 13 and 17.
An extraordinary press conference, enriched by some touching moments that have made the audience hold its breath. Two actresses of Star Rose Academy, the Academy of Claudia Koll, have brought the suffering and anguish these victims of trafficking are forced to live every day into the Parliament: the joy of a job offer they did not expect, the euphoria of the journey, the trust that is shattering when they realize they have been betrayed by those who promised them a better life.
The scout group of Pistoia 1 participated in the event too. The boys, after having volunteered in one of the structures of the Association Pope John XXIII, which hosts trafficked girls, decided to work towards raising awareness and inform public opinion on the phenomenon of prostitution. Meetings in schools and parishes have been the starting point of a journey that lasted about two years. Scouts have also formed units that go in the red-light districts of their cities, just like Father Oreste Benzi, to ask these women: “How much are you suffering?”. Some of them have written a song about a young woman who asks people “to look in her eyes, because she is not a dummy.” The song tells the story of a young woman who feels robbed of her life and freedom and about an “angel” sent to save her one cold winter.
The president of the association, Paolo Ramonda, successor of Father Oreste Benzi, launched an awareness campaign called “That is my Body”, which will ask Italians to sign the petition to support all those bills that aim to eradicate prostitution by stopping the demand, that is, the customer: “That is my body. We wanted to call this campaign this way because it is exactly these women’s bodies that are savaged by customers and racketeering. We want to stop demand because acting on it, as we have seen in the cases of various European countries, the phenomenon of prostitution drops drastically. But also because the dignity of women must come out from the defense and protection of the beauty of their body. We want those customers to change their lives, understand that to buy the body of a woman is exploitation, commodification, the oldest havoc in the world. We work alongside many girls, often minors, so they can be free.”
“Prostitution and the evil that accompanies it, namely human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution – the International Convention Against Trafficking reads – are incompatible with the dignity and value of the human being”. In Italy, the law of 1958, wanted by Senator Lina Merlin, declared brothels illegal and reduced this kind of exploitation, but has come back powerfully since the early 90’s with the development of migration flows. The situation has further deteriorated with the recent refugee emergency that has engulfed the European continent. This crisis has become a fertile ground for the various criminal organizations who have found new opportunities to find and bring to Italy victims destined for the prostitution market.
According to a report of the European Commission, the first one on human trafficking, there have been 15,846 victims of trafficking in EU between 2013 and 2014. The Europol dossier, among other things, does not mention only women and prostitution, but also women and children employed in illegal work. Sexual exploitation remains the main form of slavery, covering 67% of the victims of trafficking, followed by “labor exploitation” (21%). Those who fall victims to the racket are mostly women (76%), but one in ten is a child (15%).