The Pope isn’t too happy about it, and he’s not alone, but travelers to Rome soon will have something more to see and do than the Colosseum, The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. In April, the Eternal City will be getting its first official red-light district. The district will be confined to one non-residential area in the EUR business district, which is located south of the city center.
The decree, blessed by Rome’s center-left mayor, Ignazio Marino, is in response to the current situation: hookers of all stripes roaming the streets throughout the district.
“EUR is already the city’s red-light district, with more than 20 streets under siege day and night,” local resident Cristina Lattanzi told La Repubblica. “There are streets for transvestites, there are streets for very young girls, streets for male prostitution. Us residents need a bit of peace.”
Prostitutes caught working outside the official zone—which will be supervised by health and social workers to counter potential exploitation by pimps and sex traffickers—will be subject to fines of up to 500 euros. If the experiment proves successful, the Rome city council plans to establish up to three separate red-light zones within the EUR district.
As could be expected, the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to the plan, calling it “shameful for a city that is the cradle and the heart of Christian humanism.” Pope John XXIII, a Catholic group, is advocating the city rescind the approval and enact legislation similar to laws in Sweden, where customers are subject to penalties rather than sex workers.
If government research is correct, the need is apparent. The government and other researchers estimate 2.5 million men throughout Italy regularly use the services of the approximately 70,000-100,000 prostitutes plying their trade there. Half of the prostitutes in Italy are foreign nationals, and two-thirds work the streets, researchers said.
EUR was established in the 1930s by Benito Mussolini, who planned to use it as the site of a proposed 1942 world’s fair designed to celebrate 20 years of Fascism in Italy. The fair was never held, and we all know how fascism—and Mussolini—worked out.
The letters EUR stand for Esposizione Universale Roma. Most of the property in the district is owned by the Ministry of the Economy and the city of Rome.