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Cooperation to reduce social exclusion / Exclusion.net. – Stigmatizzazione della prostituta immigrata / – Ginevra : Exclusion.net, 27/6/2000


The immigrant prostitute is the paragon of exclusion. Within the universe of those who undergo outright rejection, no one can be compared to the figure of the immigrant prostitute. Ontological rather than social, her reality is that of the "naked life" that the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben treats in Homo Sacer, with the difference that "the life unworthy of being lived" is no longer that of European Jewry between the years 1933 and 1945. The life unworthy of being lived is now the fact of life of the young and very young women from East Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, who land upon the shores of the Europe of the Schengen Accord and other rich countries. Few come by free choice. Most of them are in flight from wars, poverty, exploitation, and hunger. And we are all aware of their attendant conditions of involuntary servitude, coercion, and slavery.

Today, I don’t want to talk about these conditions nor about the incurable wrong that is inflicted on our companions.

As the representative of the Italian Committee for the Civil Rights of Prostitutes, in the particular case of citizenship, I intend to direct your attention to a "logical" paradox that regards just what is a right. Given the nature of our tit for tat, firstly, I will limit myself to exposit the terms of our problem. If I should be successful in doing this somewhat clearly, at least, some common prejudices or clichés might be brushed aside. In the presence of rights, first of all citizenship, one cannot speak of exclusion. As we well know, the enjoyment of any right offers the guaranty of belonging to a community wherein life takes form.

Now, in the case of the immigrant prostitute, it is not enough to denounce the total absence of her rights. In reality, she is a bearer of a singular right: the right to not have any rights. What does this mean? It means that she is not relegated to a zone of franchise in a no man’s land where she can find some form of refuge. In her case the law is applied where it would appear to be lacking. The action of repression and control, the police haul-ups and arrests, and expulsions indicate that there is no place which falls "outside the law", but rather that the law is applied on those who are pushed outside the law. According to the concept exposited by Alain Badiou, for the State which confers rights, the immigrant prostitute is an emblematic figure of singularity because, if you cannot deny her being part of the context, she has no representation within it: stamped as a clandestine immigrant who does not exist for the State and its administrators. Therefore the State’s attention for her inclusion is completely missing. Could the status of rights ever regularise the immigrant prostitute? Is there no sort of sub-classification in which the immigrant prostitute could be inserted whereby she could be offered some sort of representation?

It seems that the rights conferred to migrant workers are unwarranted for the immigrant prostitute: the condition of "sex worker" is not enough to have her included in the sub-classification "working class", a necessary appurtenance, but not enough to accede to basic rights.

For obvious reasons, immigrant prostitutes cannot be likened to the prostitutes of native citizenship, who enjoy formal rights, but they have to fight daily battles in order not to lose them.

Our conclusion is that the immigrant prostitute represents that little extra on the plate that cannot be digested and that no policy dealing with prostitution wishes to remove or to make easier or, perhaps, more realistically, cannot: the right to live in the light of the sun, the right to citizenship, and, to those wanting to do so, the right to live and to work in a country, with the possibility to remain there with full rights of citizenship. All of this contradicts the very concept of a State, which is based on the notion of physical borders and exclusion.

And, after " reasons of State" have unfolded all their effects, it is at this point that these "naked lives" get labelled as victims. We have arrived at the chicanery that allows changing the cards on the table. In this way the State, the Church, and the institutions are able to recuperate some sort of relationship with the rejected. As we know, the term evinces feelings of sacrifice, suffering, and passivity. It is the victim who undergoes hardship and is the one who suffers. Every trace of personal consideration is missing, and any possible collective experience of liberation is precluded. In truth, the object of compassion, pity, and mutual tears is the plaything of the arrogant, the racist, and all the fine souls who are dedicated to the paradoxes and sophism of ethics.

Since 1982, our Committee has been engaged in combating the policies of exclusion practised in Italy. We know well that with the realisation of the political unity of Europe and with the bewildering processes of globalisation in act, the area of intervention has changed. Policies of exclusion have been fine-tuned. The target involved changes very rapidly. Everything has become more complicated. The very way of making policy today does not find one voice. The minimum that we can do is not to turn a deaf ear to the noises coming from our world, not to lose contact with it, to continue to listen to what our campaigns are saying. The Committee for the Civil Rights of Prostitutes participates in an international network against trafficking, NoTraf, and is a co-founder of the European network, TAMPEP, for health prevention among migrant prostitutes and also is a member of the international network of "Sex Workers".

Legitimised by our long experience, we propose all the following:

  • the decriminalisation of prostitution.

  • the abolition of all special legislation that regards prostitution;

  • the unconditional condemnation of violence against all persons who practise prostitution;

  • the recognition of the income that is declared in order to accede to citizenship;

  • congruous financing to support the networks that co-operate in combating trafficking and forced immigration and reducing social exclusion;

  • secure financing for the honourable re-entry in collaboration with the countries of origin of returning immigrants;

  • the obligation for those who work in the judicial, socio-assistance, and police sectors to be regularly kept up to date on official policy and procedure so as to reduce institutional arrogance and violence;

  • long-term and sure financial support for prostitute self-help groups and non-governmental organisations dealing with prostitutes;

  • financing for monitoring welfare policies with the scope of evaluating their effects within the world of prostitution.

Ginevra, 27 June 2000