Thursday, December 4, 2003

English Wire

Feminists versus prostitutes: 1-0

ATHENS — Egged on by feminist groups, Greece Thursday put on the back burner plans to revise its prostitution laws, criticized by the local sex industry as draconian and unworkable.

"The bill (introduced last month as a legislative amendment)… will not occupy the Greek Parliament," its president Apostolos Kaklamanis said in a press release.

The decision was taken by Prime Minister Costas Simitis himself, Kaklamanis told delegates from 14 women's rights groups fighting the revision.

"This comes as a shock. Ministers had already signed the bill," Elisa Kolovou, a spokeswoman for Greek prostitutes' union KEGE told AFP.

Prostitution is legal in Greece, but since 1999 is limited to brothels where a maximum of three people can be employed and which must be at least 200 metres (yards) from schools, churches or other "charitable institutions."

Married persons are not allowed to engage in paid sex.

Prostitutes say the law is unfair and unworkable.

"There's not one place in entire Greece that fulfills these criteria. The current law just criminalises the trade and pushes women into illegal prostitution," Kolovou said.

Deputy Interior Minister Nikos Bistis had pledged in August to revise the law, after some 100 prostitutes camped outside his office waiving banners, "We are entitled to a place in society".

Athens prostitutes were stirred into action earlier in the month when the city municipality decided to shut down 15 brothels for violating the law.

Attempts by officials to ease up on prostitutes working in hotels ahead of next year's Athens Olympics — when demand for paid sex is expected to rise with the arrival of tens of thousands of visitors — provoked an outcry from the Greek Church and abroad.

Around 5,000 legal prostitutes are registered throughout Greece.

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Created: January 5, 2004
Last modified: January 15, 2004
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