Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Russian official urges deputies to legalize prostitution

MOSCOW — A Russian regional official urged skeptical lawmakers Tuesday to follow his lead in decriminalizing prostitution, arguing that regulating the country's growing sex trade would help crack down on disease and delinquency.

The governor of the southern Saratov region, Dmitry Ayatskov, has given prostitution de facto legal status and hopes to further regulate the world's oldest profession to cut down on sexually transmitted disease and tuberculosis in the region, its human rights commissioner Alexander Lando said. "This is about the health of the nation," Lando told journalists.

Lando has helped draft a bill on legalizing prostitution that would oblige prostitutes to undergo bimonthly medical exams and practise their trade at least 500 meters (550 yards) from any cultural or educational facility.

"It is women's choice — and it is possible within the current constitution, which says everyone has the right to choose their own profession," he said. "There is no other way. No country in Europe has found any other solution" to regulating prostitution, he added.

Yet deputies in the lower house of parliament, or State Duma, said they may soon consider another bill which would toughen the law on prostitution, stiffening fines and sentences for both those who sell and buy sex.

Deputy Gennady Gudkov said the Duma would soon — without specifying the date — consider a series of penal code reforms that would include a bill following Sweden's example in cracking down on the men who solicit prostitutes in an attempt to completely shut down prostitution.

"This is a first step in solving this problem. We must target not only those who sell, but those who buy," Gudkov said.

Gudkov, joined by other deputies and federal officials, poured cold water on Lando's proposal, saying "yes, there is a problem, we have mass prostitution today — but we should not legalize it."

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Created: January 8, 2004
Last modified: January 15, 2004
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