Comitato per Il Diritti Civilli delle Prostitute: Statement

Many people prefer the neologism 'sex workers' to the traditional word 'prostitute'. This is not simply an innocent semantic evasion but an attempt to create a professional profile equal to the demands of post-Fordian society. It is an attempt to carve an ad hoc niche in the universe of second- and third-generation autonomous professions for indigenous prostitutes. The Committee for the Civil Rights of Prostitutes has serious doubts over the adoption of the term, whose political implications merit close examination.

In the complex and convoluted reality of prostitution in Europe and Italy, a reality in which - lest we forget - immigrant women are now prevalent, the new status would be a way of separating indigenous prostitutes from all the others: visibility, rights, social self-recognition and more besides would be the prerogative of the former, while the latter would be condemned to marginalisation, invisibility and illegality. The former would transform themselves into autonomous professionals with a VAT number, while the latter would remain outside the law.

Unprotected by any rights, immigrant women would find themselves reduced to a struggle for survival and would inhabit, they and they alone, a parallel market controlled by mafia groups. The rights of the sex worker would derive from the statutory recognition of prostitution as a profession, as is the case in Germany and the Netherlands. This idea of tying citizenship and rights to employment, an idea with the hallmarks of social democracy, has also been adopted by the Italian constitution, but this does not guarantee it effectiveness in the present day.

This is demonstrated by neo-laisser-faire policies: first in Thatcher's Britain at the end of the 1970s, then in countries with a weak and marginalised working class in the 1980s, and finally in countries with stronger traditions of struggle such as Italy, France and Germany, right-wing governments, centre-left governments and, in the last decade, left-wing governments have proceeded to dismantle protective labour legislation passed in the 1960s and 1970s and to weaken the position of labour to the point of divesting it of all value.

The society we live in today has changed with respect to the society envisaged by the labourist constitutions of the post-war period and continues to change rapidly. For this reason the neologisms used to describe it have a short life span: post-industrial society, post-labourist society, post-Fordian society, etc.

One thing is certain: rights - and above all the right of citizenship - have lost their solid anchorage and been atomised beneath the hammer blows of 'globalisation'. If this is the frame of reference which reflects a real situation, then it appears to us that the transition from prostitute to sex worker is marked by this weakness and ambiguity which not even the policy of inclusion by quotas can resolve. It is the insuperable limit of every prostitution policy. This does not apply to prostitutes from outside the European Union, who are of necessity illegal immigrants, because there will also be an immeasurable difference between the multitudes of supernumeraries and the mass of those included. It is a question of an indigestible surplus.

Unless the real intention, the matter really at stake, is the isolation of the weakest subjects; a dream - a reactionary and racist one - of resolving once and for all the problem of immigrant women for whom prostitution may have been a free choice. This would be yet another contribution to the construction of the Europe of the Schengen Agreement.




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