OPINION

Editorial

The new bill against trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of adults and minors is, no doubt, a step in the right direction but, at the same time, it also underscores the dramatic upsurge in the phenomenon. The striking tightening of measures against these types of offenses is expected to have a preventive effect, at least by eliminating the immediate release of pimps which allows them to resume their profitable activity. Repression and punishment do not, of course, comprise the only necessary parameters for tackling the phenomenon. Without these, however, it is impossible to contain the flood which has swept Europe, particularly after the collapse of the Communist bloc. The problem has grown particularly acute. According to data released by UNICEF, 1 million children are driven into prostitution each year, while 700,000 women became prostitutes in 2000. Under the new bill, especially in cases where minors are involved, the sentence is now between 10 years and life in prison. The stricter penalties reflect the much-needed adaptation to the changing circumstances. The last modernization of the penal code in 1984 was overcome by later developments, including the extensive exploitation of the Internet in promoting the worst types of human trafficking and sexual offenses – particularly against minors. The recognition of male prostitution was an inevitable reform and it finally defeats delusions over a real problem which can now be faced on the grounds of its actual parameters, putting an end to the collective social hypocrisy and official ignorance of the problem. Numerous offenses and crimes are related to rings of sexual exploitation. In effect, implementing the new laws becomes essential but, unfortunately, this is where the greatest problems lie. This is where the government’s effectiveness in tackling the plight of human trafficking will be judged. The same applies to hooliganism – another problem that cannot be ignored. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis announced yesterday a number of measures which render soccer and basketball clubs jointly liable for the vandalism committed by their fanatic fans. It is certain that if soccer clubs are forced to pay for the damage, and if, at the same time, hooligans are prosecuted, violence will seriously decrease. But will the government have the courage to counter the powerful circles that nourish hooligans? Only time will tell. After considerable arm-twisting this week, Italy dropped its veto of EU-wide arrest warrants – part of a package of anti-terrorist measures. Greece is still threatening to veto expansion if divided Cyprus is left behind.