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Lombardy region approves referendum on brothels

Referendum on repeal of 1958 anti-brothel law

08 April, 20:41
Lombardy region approves referendum on brothels (ANSA) - Milan, April 8 - Lombardy's regional council on Tuesday approved a referendum on a partial repeal of the so-called Merlin law, which outlawed brothels in 1958.

The idea behind the repeal is to take prostitutes off the streets and bring them to work in a safer environment behind closed doors.

Those in favor of the referendum, which was proposed by the anti-immigrant Northern League, included Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, with the New Center Right and the center-left Democratic Party opposing. Center-right lawmakers said the issue was a ''battle to overcome an obsolete and hypocritical law''.

Sponsored by Socialist Senator Lina Merlin, the 1958 law was passed over strenuous opposition from right-wing and monarchist parties. It abolished State regulation of prostitution and made exploiting prostitutes a crime.

Merlin modeled her law on the example of French activist and ex-prostitute Marthe Richard, who got similar legislation passed in her country in 1946. She also sought to incorporate the principles of a 1949 UN convention against human trafficking and the exploitation of sex workers.