The Italian Almanac

waiting on the street

Italian News - 16

Rome's top security official suggested the city needs a red-light district to keep prostitutes off the streets, saying in an interview citizens complain daily about prostitutes working the streets of the Italian capital. Rome's mayor and other politicians immediately criticized the statement from Rome Prefect Achille Serra.

Serra suggested a district like those in Hamburg and Amsterdam "where one can exercise the world's oldest profession without disturbing the citizens." Serra also said "In Italy, prostitution is not a crime but this doesn't mean that you must continue to make believe (the problem) isn't there."

Prostitution is not illegal in Italy but pimping is and police have been cracking down on prostitution rackets they say exploit illegal immigrants, including many from Eastern Europe and Africa. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni stressed he respected Serra for wanting to deal with "a grave problem. But the idea of a red-light district is a mistaken answer to a real problem," he said in a statement, urging more such crackdowns.

Italy had legal brothels until 1958, when they were closed and prostitutes took to the streets. There are an estimated tens of thousands of prostitutes in Italy. In Rome, among the streets where they are visible are a stretch near the Foreign Ministry and roads leading to a seaside suburb where many families go to picnic.