Prostitution in Italy is not specifically illegal, and is tolerated in an individually-organized basis; however, several prostitution-related activities are outlawed.
Before 1959, prostitution in Italy was fully legal into so-called case chiuse (closed houses), private houses where prostitution could be legally carried on. In 1959, the legge Merlin (Merlin Law, named after its main author, socialist MP Lina Merlin) was approved: this law, still in force today, revoked the regulation of prostitution in the country, closed the case chiuse and established a new offence called sfruttamento della prostituzione (exploitation, solicitation of prostitution) with the aim to punish pimping. The law, despite its early good intentions to give more rights to dependent prostitutes, in fact caused a notable increase of street prostitution.
Notably, street prostitution become much more visible since the early 1990s and the consequent migratory wave from Eastern European countries caused by the fall of the Soviet regime. In fact, many of the street prostitutes are usually young foreigners mostly from Western Africa and Eastern Europe, often without a valid visa. Human trafficking, particularly trafficking of underage girls, has also become a growing issue in recent years.
The Italian Government is now considering fining clients.
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