A softer approach to brothels

Following a highly publicized summer strike by Athens prostitutes, the government yesterday tabled new draft legislation to soften laws on the operation of legal brothels. The proposals were contained in an amendment tagged on to a draft law on public administration, a curious match which spurred opposition New Democracy’s parliamentary spokesman to inquire whether the government considered the two issues to be related. Echoing objections expressed by Church officials earlier this year, Prokopis Pavlopoulos asked why a less strict approach to the operation of brothels was deemed necessary. The draft amendment slashes in half the minimum legal distance – currently 200 meters – brothels must maintain from schools, churches, hospitals, youth clubs and playgrounds. Furthermore, if the buildings in which prostitutes propose to receive their clients are out of the sight of such establishments, the distance can be even shorter. The proposed legislation will also lift the current ban on married women working as prostitutes, as well as allowing registered sex workers to open more than one brothel. The draft amendment was hailed as a positive development by the Movement of Greek Prostitutes (KEGE), which had spearheaded protests against extant legislation, which dates to 1999. KEGE complained that the current law is unworkable, and highly unfair to registered, legal prostitutes at a time when the country is full of illegal sex workers – mostly foreign women often lured by organized gangs to Greece under false pretences and forced into prostitution. Initially, the government had promised to table an amendment – which will affect the status of prostitutes during the 2004 Olympics – by September 15.