In a belated attempt to crack down on the sexual exploitation of and trafficking in women in Greece, which has burgeoned over the past decade, the government yesterday heralded a clutch of tough penalties mainly targeting gangs forcing women – and particularly minors – into prostitution. A draft law presented by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis lists the sexual exploitation of and trafficking in women among forms of organized crime, which effectively means that all charges brought in such cases will be on a criminal level, ensuring strict punishment. Apart from stepping up the deterrents against forcing minors into prostitution – and criminalizing the use of their services – the draft law also envisages comprehensive measures for the protection of witnesses and rehabilitation of victims. According to figures presented yesterday at a conference on The illegal trafficking in women in Thessaloniki, 60 percent of the women working as prostitutes in Greece are foreign nationals, mostly illegal immigrants. Often, the victims of prostitution rings are as young as 12-15. Most of the foreign women smuggled into Greece to work as prostitutes are unaware of their destined occupation, having been promised jobs as babysitters or bar workers. The majority are regularly subjected to violence, while most – if not all – of their earnings are kept by the gangs exploiting them. Under the proposed legislation, the use of violence, threats or false promises to force any individual into prostitution will carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence. If the victims are under 18 years of age or the offense involves their illegal entry or exit from the country, fines of 50,000-100,000 euros may be imposed. The same applies to exploitation for pornographic purposes. The offense of sexual abuse will be extended to cover victims of both sexes. The sexual exploitation of victims under 18 will be punished with a maximum 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 10,000-50,000 euros. If the minor involved is under 16, has been tricked into prostitution or the procurer is a relative or guardian, the punishment is at least ten years’ imprisonment and fines of 50,000-100,000 euros. Furthermore, sexual abuse of minors under 10 years old for payment will carry a minimum 10-year sentence and fines of 100,000-500,000 euros. For minors aged 10-15, the sentence is up to 10 years and fines of 50,000-100,000 euros. Using the services of prostitutes aged 15-18 will also be punishable with shorter jail terms and fines of 10,000-50,000 euros. In an attempt to discourage sex tourism, the law will also apply to Greeks committing such offenses with minors abroad. It will also become illegal to advertise the sexual services of minors in any way, as until now the law only provided for adults. The sale, possession or distribution of pornographic material involving minors will be punished by up to two years’ imprisonment, while if the material involves violence against minors under 15, the penalty will be up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The draft law is also designed to protect victims as well as providing shelter, food, health care, psychological support, legal aid and translation services for them. When the victims are illegal immigrants, they will not be deported before court procedures involving their exploiters are over, and if they have strong grounds for not being repatriated their deportation will be deferred.