Rome to create red-light district to prevent families from being embarrassed

'Women can't enter their homes without being mistaken for prostitutes', say campaigners

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The Independent Online

The mayor of Rome is considering creating a red-light district in the city to prevent families from being embarrassed and protect prostitutes from being exploited.

City officials in the EUR neighborhood, filled with ministries, office high-rises and residential buildings, want to designate certain streets for prostitutes, starting in April.

Prostitution is legal in Italy, and its practitioners are a common sight along several streets in Rome and many other Italian cities.

Mayor Ignazio Marino told state TV RAINews24 yesterday that the aim is to "find a balance" by pinpointing places, such as parks frequented by children and families, where prostitution won't be allowed, and by designating some streets where it will.

Exploitation of prostitution is illegal, as is paying minors for sex.

EUR official Andrea Santoro says designated streets will help ensure prostitutes aren't put there by traffickers. Many women leave homes in Africa and Eastern Europe for Italy after promises of work like waitressing, but instead are forced into prostitution by trafficking rackets.

Some neighbourhood groups like the proposal. Campaigner Paolo Lampariello said there are so many prostitutes on EUR's streets that "women can't enter their homes without being mistaken for prostitutes."

The newspaper Avvenire, of the Italian bishops' conference, scathingly described the designated-streets-for-prostitutes plan as "a hypocritical (and perhaps ideological) operation for urban 'decorum."'

The city would provide psychological support and health care to prostitutes on the designated streets. Clients of prostitutes working on non-designated streets would risk fines of €500 (about $550) under the plan.

Pope Francis has decried the "shameful plague" of human trafficking and urged prayer and reflection about the problem.

Marino's political roots are in a centrist faction of the Italian government's main coalition party, the Democrats.