When you think of Italy, what do you think of?
You think of the many places to visit in Rome, the beautiful hills of Tuscany, and the leaning tower of Pisa.
Have you ever thought of sex trafficking?
Italy’s Sex Trafficking Problem
A few week’s ago I had the opportunity to speak at a sex trafficking conference here in Italy. I was asked to talk about the specifics of sex trafficking in Italy. The conference was a success and I hope there will be more like this in the future. It was also a good time with new friends, and some unforgettable experiences I’ll be writing about in the coming days.
DId you know that Italy has a sex trafficking problem?
Sure, sex trafficking is running rampant is a problem all of the world, but Italy has a unique position in the big picture. It’s problem is two fold: It is both a destination to be trafficked and a place to be trafficked through to other European countries.
Geographically, Italy is positioned perfectly. It’s a huge peninsula, giving it plenty of coastal area for people to dock. So much coast, it’s nearly impossible to monitor it well. Think about how hard the United States has monitoring a land boarder that’s shorter in length.
The position in the world plays a part, too. You have Romania, Greece and the whole Easter block on one coast, and the Middle East and North Africa on the other. You can see the effect in Italy’s illegal immigration estimates as well as the primary trafficked people groups:
- Romanians (30% being under 18 years of age)
- Nigerians (10,000 are forced into prostitution each year)
Albania and Nigerian Mafia as well as Chinese and Japanese Criminal Gangs have found Italy to not only be geographically well placed, but find it easier to do business as crime networks have already been well established because of the Italian Mafia.
As tourists enjoy the good wine and cheese in Italy, they’re also enjoying their anonymity as they also enjoy the sex trafficking, but it isn’t just the foreigners who are taking part. Prostitution has been legal in Italy since 1958. This has had profound effects on the cultures attitude towards sex. Think about it: There are people in their 70’s who could have legally participated in prostitution, all the while Italy was trying to recover from World War II.
Today, there are estimated to be over 10,000 madams who control an average of two to three girls per year. That’s a lot!
There are more prostitutes and madams in Italy than Catholic priests.
In fact, there are more prostitutes in Italy than there are Catholic priests in the United States!
So what does prostitution have to do with sex trafficking?
Although not all prostitution involves sex trafficking, all sex trafficking involves prostitution.
This is how we can determine that Italy has a sex trafficking problem.
It’s difficult to grasp accurate numbers on those being trafficked, as it is with quantifying the number of un-reported crimes. How can you calculate something that hasn’t been counted?
That would be like asking how many people drive over the speed limit. You don’t know, and could never know. All you know is how many tickets that have been issued for those that exceeded the speed limit enough to warrant a ticket.
If we knew who, where and how many were being trafficked, we would simply drive up and rescue them.
We do know, however, that researchers have used a global sample of 116 countries and have found that countries were prostitution is legal, experience a higher inflow of human trafficking than other countries in which prostitution is prohibited.
With 80,000 Italians leaving the country to participate in sex tourism every year and supporting the economics of prostitution within its borders, ending sex trafficking in Italy will require a persuasion of the culture. Making prostitution illegal in Italy would be a good foot forward in ending trafficking, as well as highlighting the peripheral effects sex trafficking crimes bring along with it, as trafficking is one of the many arms of organized crime.
Italy is a key piece in gaining ground in the fight against sex trafficking in Europe and the rest of the world. There’s a sex trafficking problem, here, and we need to start working on it now.
Italian National Anti-Trafficking Hotline 800 290 290 (toll free).