The Italian law no. 75 from 1958, which carries the name of Senator Lina Merlin, has turned 61. This law, as we know, abolished brothels – 560 of them when it was approved -, the embodiment of State regulation of prostitution. It abolished the keeping of records of prostituted women, freeing them from the heavy stigma and providing an opportunity for them to escape from prostitution. Essentially, this law aimed to avoid any woman being forced, coerced or encouraged to get into or to remain in prostitution.
The Merlin Law can be seen as a pioneer for recent abolitionist laws, approved in various countries around the world and it serves as our point of reference to reflect both culturally and politically on prostitution itself.
“We all want to find ways for the women to be safe. But we know that the women and the men, the boys and the girls can never be safe in prostitution. We can only reduce the harm. That’s not good enough. We don’t talk about reducing the harm for sexually abused children or women who are raped. We talk about ending it. And yet, when you talk about ending the sex trade, many people laugh at you and say ‘we can’t stop prostitution’. I say ‘really? Do you not think that we can end poverty?’ and they’ll say yes. ‘Do you think that we can end child sexual abuse?’ ‘Well, yes.’ ‘Do you think we can end racism?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well why can’t you imagine ending prostitution? Men are not born with this innate desire to have sex with a woman who isn’t consenting. We call that socialisation and patriarchy. Of course there is no innate need for men to have one-sided consensual sex with a woman who doesn’t want to be there. The propagandists that spin the mythology that leads people to say legalisation is the only way, know very well that, if they say prostitution is inevitable, it’s always been here and it always will be here, people somehow absorb this and believe it. If I hear the phrase ‘the oldest profession’ one more time, I might have to do some damage. Of course it’s not a profession. Of course that isn’t the case. Children have been sexually abused forever. Does that make it natural and inevitable? Of course it doesn’t.”
Julie Bindel, Convention on the Sex Industry and Human Trafficking, Rome, May 2018.
To read Julie Bindel’s speech in full, as well as others from the convention, click here.
We at Associazione Iroko were thrilled to welcome guests including Rachel Moran, Ingeborg Kraus, Blessing Okoedion and Julie Bindel to Rome on 27th and 28th May for the International Conference on the sex industry and human trafficking, which we organised alongside Resistenza Femminista, UDI Napoli, Salute Donna and Differenza Donna.
We are not newcomers to this conversation, but the ability of these speakers to ignite passion and inspire us to action never fails to amaze us. We cannot underestimate the power of a knowledgeable, empathetic and eloquent speaker. We were lucky to have various different perspectives represented among our guests – from survivors of prostitution and human trafficking, to professional trauma counsellors and international authors – which offer a rounded picture of this damaging industry.
IROKO Association, Resistenza Femminista, Unione Donne Italiane di Napoli , Salute Donna and Differenza Donna are holding a day of talks and reflection on the sex industry and human trafficking on 28th May 2018 from 15:00 to 19:00. It will be held in the “Aldo Moro” room in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome. Taking part in these talks will be the honourable Fabiana Dadone (from the 5 Star Movement) and Senator Edoardo Patriarca (from the Democratic Party).
Julie Bindel, writer and journalist (The Guardian, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph, Standpoint), co-founder of Justice For Women and author of the book entitled The Pimping of Prostitution – an investigation into the global sex trade, drawing on interviews with 250 women from 40 countries – will be among international speakers at the event. Alongside her; Ingeborg Kraus, a German psychologist and trauma expert, who has held conferences around the world on the failure of the German Model (legalising prostitution), and the links between trauma and prostitution; Rachel Moran, an Irish survivor of prostitution, author of the book Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution and co-founder of SPACE International, an association of women who have escaped from prostitution; Blessing Okoedion, activist, author of the book Il coraggio della libertà (The Courage of Freedom), who has lived through the experience of being trafficked to Italy; Giovani Conzo, the anti-mafia prosecutor, who has been involved in significant trials of trafficked Nigerian women in Italy.