Disciplining "dangerous sexualities": new directions in prostitution policy in Italy
Birkbeck Institute for Social Research Birkbeck College London, UK
In January 2002, the Italian head of the Government, Silvio Berlusconi, expressed concern about Italian cities being swamped with "foreign prostitutes". He claimed that they represented a disturbance of public order and a threat to the preservation of public morality and the integrity of the "social body". His outbursts inflamed heated debates amongst politicians, experts and various stakeholders about possible new legislation on prostitution to replace the 1958 law that to this day regulates the selling and purchase of sexual services in Italy.
This paper explores some of the most significant public debates over the modification of the 1958 prostitution law that initiated in 2002 and that continue to this day. The discussion shows how the right-wing governmental coalition has shifted its policy agenda from an interest in forced prostitutes and "sex trafficking" - as it had been with the previous leftist legislature - to "foreign prostitutes". Rather than addressing their unwanted presence within a migration regime, the Government has set out to manage the practice of prostitution in such a way that "foreigners" would be automatically expelled from the country. I argue that the political agenda pursued by the right-wing government to tackle "foreign prostitution" can be seen as part of propagandising moves and strategies enacted to publicly celebrate and empower the state as the "moral guardian" of national boundaries and values from these unwanted "Others". The control of women´s bodies in this strategy becomes an instrument to demarcate boundaries to discipline and/or eliminate those groups whose "foreignness" and "dangerous sexuality" supposedly threaten the nation. The discussion of these aspects highlights how central women´s sexualities and women's sexual behaviours still remain in discourses around the construction and "preservation" of national identities.