This chapter has examined a specific case study in which sizeable numbers of women are moved from Nigeria to work as prostitutes in Italy. In examining whether these women consent to be moved and hence are smuggled or whether they are, in essence, moved against their will, oral evidence collected in interviews with experts in this area has been prioritised. The debate over migration for sex work also has long been informed by feminist theory, and the arguments of theorists from liberal feminism who support a woman’s right to choose prostitution as a livelihood and from radical feminists who argue that sex work is intrinsically exploitative have also been evaluated. There also exist legal documents, measures and sanctions to address migration for sex work on a national level in Italy and Nigeria, as well as in International Law. In particular, the Palermo Protocols were drafted in the light of the moral and jurisprudential debates on this issue.
The evidence indicates that many of the women are aware that they will be involved in prostitution, although there is also some evidence that a minority of women are thoroughly deceived as to the type of employment that awaits them in Italy. However, the reality of the activities that they will be expected to undertake as prostitutes is usually not made clear prior to their arrival. Moreover, in order to ensure the compliance of the women once their work conditions and the reality of what is required of them becomes apparent, the pimps and madams who are now in a position of power over the migrant women, employ diverse mechanisms of coercion, both psychological and physical. Liberal feminists argue that it is their poverty, and not the sex work that they undertake, or even the conditions under which they work, that drives most prostitutes to continue working. The weight of evidence gathered from those interviewed for this study, however, substantiates the argument that the force of the coercive practices used by the pimps and madams would negate any consent given by the prospective migrant sex worker at the time of recruitment, regardless of wider legal questions as to whether an individual can consent to exploitation. Furthermore, the severity of the methods used to coerce compliance, amount to serious crimes and human rights abuses in themselves that should be acted upon by law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice systems of both Italy and Nigeria.