Building Evidentiary Basis And Research Capacity On Sex Work In Italy Through Participatory Anti-Oppressive Methods

Small Group Project 2024-25


Giulia Garofalo Geymonat & Giulia Selmi
Small Group Project 2024-25

This project is concerned with the changing nature of commercial sex in Europe, competing policy approaches to regulate the phenomenon, and the limited scientific evidence on the extent, experiences and needs of those involved in it. We approach our investigation of these aspects with a focus on Italy. With a national prostitution law that was passed over 60 years ago, one of the oldest sex worker movements in the world, widespread punitive local-level anti-prostitution measures, and one of the earliest and most comprehensive measures to support victims of trafficking in Europe, Italy represents an especially rich, yet often overlooked case for the analysis of prostitution policies and practices.

More specifically, taking place in a largely evidence-free environment, debates on reforming the current prostitution law in Italy are divisive and emotional, and with a strong focus on street prostitution, despite trends observed by local-level organisations over the past decade of an increase and diversification in indoor sex work. In light of these contextual factors, focusing on Italy, the three primary aims of this project are to: a) explore the experiences and needs of indoor urban sex workers, the challenges they face, what makes them resilient, and the efficacy of support services available to them; b) review limited available data and research on indoor commercial sex; and c) build the research capacity, inter-disciplinarity and evidence-base of sex industry studies which, in Italy, remain marginalised and stigmatized. 

By contributing to evidence-informed knowledge, the project will enhance understandings of the lives and needs of indoor sex workers. Through the use of participatory methods involving both sex workers and key stakeholders, the project will focus on three Italian cities to facilitate an in-depth exploration of internal diversity within the national context, with the aim of better informing policy debates and policy-making in this field.

Contacting Fellows

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