Crime and Court news / History of Italy / Society

The cyclic debate on the reopening of Italian brothels

Old Italian brothel price list: “Normal service – 1,10 liras. Double service – 1,90 liras. Twenty minutes – 3,50 liras. Half an hour – 4,50 liras. One full hour – 7,20 liras. Half a day – 20 liras. Bath facilities complete with soap and towels are for free. Discounts for students and members of the Armed Forces”

Despite their Roman law traditions, Italians are not jurists, but they all know the 1958 Merlin Law which shut down the famous “houses of tolerance”, the State-sanctioned brothels where generations of Italians received their sexual education.

Cyclically, someone in the public arena will stand and advocate the repeal of the Law in order to remove prostitutes from the streets and force them to pay taxes.

However, the debate is misled by some legal misunderstandings. First of all, the Merlin Law does not force the prostitutes into the streets. A prostitute can work in her own apartment, and this is perfectly legal.

Moreover, a law taxing the income of prostitutes is already in force since 1993. It is seldom applied, but sometimes it happens.

It is true instead that a legal regulation of prostitution could allow health checks on the prostitutes. However, a prostitute passing a disease to a client is already liable, and above all the clients are the one insisting for unprotected sex.

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