Prostitution law to change after protests

Greece has pledged to revise its prostitution laws, fought by the local sex industry as draconian and unworkable, after some 100 prostitutes threatened to hold an overnight protest outside government offices. «A new bill will be presented to Parliament by September 15,» Deputy Interior Minister Nikos Bistis told reporters late yesterday after lengthy talks with a three-woman delegation from the Greek prostitutes’ union KEGE. Waving banners reading: «We are entitled to a place in society,» the prostitutes said they would not budge until the minister committed himself – in front of rolling television cameras – to revising the law. Prostitution is legal in Greece but since 1999 has been limited to brothels where a maximum of three people can be employed and which must be at least 200 meters from schools, churches or other «charitable institutions.» Persons who are married are not allowed to engage in paid sex. Prostitutes say the law is unworkable. «It just criminalizes the trade and pushes women to illegal prostitution,» KEGE spokeswoman Elisa Kolovou told AFP. New provisions Bistis pledged the revised law would feature new provisions on the minimum distance required as well as accommodate other grievances of the sex industry. Athens prostitutes were stirred into action in early August when the city municipality decided to shut down 15 brothels for violating the law. But a crowd of prostitutes successfully prevented municipal officials from pulling down the shutters on all but two brothels. 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 rocket with the arrival of tens of thousands of visitors – had provoked an outcry from the Greek Church. Bistis said that until the new law is presented, his ministry will check with the Athens municipality and police to the effect that there are «no problems» until September 15. Licenses Because of the 1999 law’s provisions, practically none of approximately 200 Athens brothels has a license, despite the fact that the prostitutes working in them are validly registered, Kolovou said. «It’s crazy. It’s like the State says, ‘You’re allowed to work,’ but you have no place to work in. We’re fair game for arrests,» a prostitute who did not want to be named told AFP. (AFP)