Bulgarian Experts Favor Legalization of Prostitution
Bulgaria ranks anywhere between the third and the fifth place in Europe by the number of prostitutes, according to Stefan Popov, researcher from the Risk Monitor Foundation.
Popov is the leader of the team which had conducted a study on prostitution in Bulgaria. Based on its data, released Tuesday, the Foundation recommends to Bulgarian authorities to make prostitution legal.
A large number of the respondents, who were between the ages of 30 and 50, favor legalizing prostitution, but people in other rage groups oppose it – those with elementary education and in small towns and villages prevail in the latter, compared to people with college degrees and those who live in large cities.
56% of all respondents see prostitution as an immoral act; 23% - as a profession like all others, and 19% believe it is a crime. Half say poverty is the reason for someone to become a prostitute while another 18% are of the opinion that selling sex can lead to higher income.
According to the study, there are about 5 000 and 8 000 people practicing prostitution in Bulgaria each month – 90% are women, 5% are men, and 5% - transsexual. Roma are 70% of all prostitutes. There are also 3 700 people who are customers each month.
Only 134 prostitutes have been tested for AIDS, hepatitis, and syphilis between August 2003 and November 2008, with none proven positive for AIDS while 10% had hepatitis.
Popov says prostitution is more "popular" in Bulgaria than in many other European countries, but can not be practiced freely since it is run by organized crime groups similarly to Russia and the Ukraine.
According to the study, prices on the street run between BGN 10 and 30 per client with each prostitute having an average of 6 clients a day; if the services are offered inside – the price is BGN 40-60 up to 100.
Based on this data, the experts calculate that the average annual turnover on the "sex market" in Bulgaria is between BGN 270 M and BGN 430 M. They point out that there are 4 main official responses to prostitution across the globe – silent permission, decriminalization, legalization and criminalization with Bulgaria being in the first group with countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain.
They recommend stopping legal penalties for prostitutes under the "idler" clause and training policemen in changing their view that prostitutes are criminals. In the beginning of the 20th century, prostitution in Bulgaria has been legal.
According to 2010 data of the Interior Ministry, Bulgaria has 1 326 prostitutes and 236 bordellos with the most being in the Black Sea cities of Burgas and Varna followed by the second largest city of Plovdiv.
At the end of August, Bulgarian prostitutes attempted to organize a rally to ask to be legalized, even offering to pay taxes, but the attempt foiled after only about 10 women gathered in downtown Sofia.
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