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‘I Am Scared’: Italian Sex Workers Face Poverty and Illness In the Pandemic

2020-08-03 22:00:16

Last month, Antonio Guadagnini, a Conservative councilor in the Veneto region, said reopening brothels — illegal in Italy since 1958 — and regulating prostitution would protect society. In Sicily, Ruggero Razza, the top regional health official, said that authorities should reflect on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in high-risk, unregulated occupations such as sex work.

“Once again we were excluded from the system,” said Pia Covre, a former sex worker and the founder of the Committee for the Civil Rights of Prostitutes, which promotes the legal recognition and regulation of sex work.

She added that, after being excluded from government economic support, sex workers were also deprived regular coronavirus tests and the opportunity to keep a record of their clients for contact tracing.

The regulation of sex work is opposed by those who argue that it would lead to more exploitation and human trafficking. The pandemic, they say, hasn’t changed that.

Senator Alessandra Maiorino, the spokeswoman for the Five Star Movement, Italy’s governing political party, has said that up to 90 percent of sex workers are victims of human trafficking. Last June she signed a petition to demand that Escort Advisor, Europe’s largest sex worker review website, be shut down.

She and others argue that hitting demand is the only way to end prostitution while also protecting victims of human trafficking. But rights organizations claim that abolition would only put sex workers more in danger by pushing the industry underground.

Francesca Bettio, a professor of economics at the University of Siena who specializes in issues related to sex work and human trafficking, said that the regulations in the Netherlands and Germany, while better than those in Italy, are not perfect.


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