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Veneto to urge government to regulate, tax prostitution

Sex workers call for right to pay taxes, get pensions

20 February, 19:11
Veneto to urge government to regulate, tax prostitution (ANSA) - Venice, February 20 - The regional assembly of the northeastern Veneto region on Thursday passed a motion asking the local government to urge Rome to regulate prostitution and tax the proceeds of sex work.

The motion was proposed by the populist Northern League, which rules the region around Venice.

The exchange of sexual services for money is legal in Italy but organized prostitution - indoors in brothels or controlled by third parties - is prohibited. Brothels became illegal in 1958 but there have been periodic calls, especially from right-wing and populist parties, to bring them back.

Sex workers in Italy are often referred to as 'lucciole' (fireflies), which is also the name of their website.

The Northern League' move came after 'lucciole' committees this week started campaigning for "taxes, rights and (social security) contributions" so their members can qualify for State pensions.

Two cases of sex workers being asked to pay taxes claimed headlines Thursday.

A Brazilian-born escort who works under the names of Sandra Yura or Gaia di Montebello out of the northern Italian city of Salò said Italian tax agency Equitalia sent her a bill of 50,000 euros after a fiscal check.

"When I went to the chamber of commerce they told me my job could not be regularised," said Yura, who is in her 50s.

"I want to be registered as a self-employed worker," she said.

Turkish-born transsexual escort Efe Bal, 37, took out a full-page ad in the Milan supplement of the Corriere della Sera daily on Wednesday and stripped naked outside the newspaper's HQ in the Italian business capital to protest against an Equitalia bill of 425,000 euros.

Bal, who plies her trade in Milan, said in interview that she earned 8,000 euros per session and was a supporter of the Northern League and their historic ally, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

"But I never worked for Berlusconi," she quipped, alluding to the three-time premier's conviction, which he is appealing, for paying an underage prostitute for sex at his villa outside Milan.

Pia Covre, secretary of the national committee for the civil rights of prostitutes, told the press Thursday that the Italian tax agency had "doubled its inspections and sanctions against sex workers in the last year".

An estimated 70,000 prostitutes work in Italy, half of them foreign-born and 20% under the legal age for sex work of 18, according to the most recent survey by activist organisation Gruppo Abele.

Abele says there are nine million "assiduous or occasional" clients of sex workers in Italy, who generate a turnover of 5.6 billion euros. photo: Efe Bal at Corriere della Sera HQ