Prostitution and Trafficking

Italy's Sex Scandals Jar View of Women's Success

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One of Silvio Berlusconi's "escorts" has publicly encouraged women to view their beauty as a marketable asset. Some of the prime minister's political opponents say his tenure has degraded the atmosphere for women in the work force.

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Countrywide Protests

In February the women's rights group "Se non ora quando?" ("If not now, when?") staged protests in 60 Italian towns and cities, with smaller support demonstrations scattered across Europe and one in Tokyo. "Italy is not a brothel" was a popular sign in the Rome protest and many demonstrators said Berlusconi's sex scandals were degrading to Italian women.

Berlusconi pushed back in a televised press conference, denying that he ever attended sex parties or consorted with prostitutes, calling the claims politically motivated.

Vincenzo Maruccio, another member of the IDV, also addressed the issue. "A country that allows escorts to overtake skilled women who studied and get work experiences is an immoral country," he said at the September gathering.

Maruccio, a councilor of Lazio, a region that includes Rome, proposed creating job-evaluation criteria based only on skills and job experience and not connections. He emphasized that Berlusconi's sex-scandal-plagued leadership has done a disservice to women's employment opportunities.

Beatrice Lorenzin is the member of parliament responsible for equal opportunity for Berlusconi's PDL. In a recent phone interview, she said the women's rights movement has suffered a historic reversal.

"Sexual freedom has changed," she said. "In 1968 it represented freedom of choice. But today's women turn their body into a power tool."

She deflected any ideas that her party leader has encouraged women to use their sexuality to gain financial power. She argued that during the 20 years that leftists dominated the country's politics they created a discouraging atmosphere. Now, she said, they don't see any other way to move ahead aside from exploiting personal connections and their own sexuality.


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Valeria Marchetti is an Italian journalist with a background in broadcasting. She is based in Rome.

For more information:

Veline in lista, l'ira di Berlusconi "Veronica ha creduto alla sinistra," La Repubblica (in Italian):

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As I am reading this article and being appalled by the callous attitude exhibited by the escort woman, my eye was drawn to the upper right corner of the web page to the ad from bare minerals. It asked me, "are you a force of beauty? enter and find out" then a large button tells me to "rollover". This, in my opinion, sends conflicting messages to the readers of your important and timely publication.

This is not unlike to "Stockholm Syndrome", where kidnapped people begin to empathize with their captors. I recently read Kathy Bolcovac's "The Whistleblower", and watched the movie only a few days ago. Both are heartwrenching, as they make known the fact that girls are kidnapped into prostitution. The Sarajevo example is among the worst in the world, because these poor young women only become ill and die from their situation. In Italy, the high class prostitute who admitted that this was her only way to success, by this exclamation of it as an expectation for women, is really showing that once in there is often no way out. Women's groups need to focus upon how girls are moved into prostitution in jr high/middle school and high school, then are there for life, usually as permanent slaves, whether high paid or not, who can be sold around at the will of those who 'keep' them. Later, they are so incorporated into this life, they have buried in their minds, the realities of what they have lost and what they are too frightened to change. Many would not be accepted back into their families, and that is an unspoken reality in many places, though we only recognize this as a problem in Muslim culture - why do we not see this reality as it exists here in North America as well as in Europe and other places?
This issue is so angering to me that once I begin speaking of it, it is difficult to stop!