Joining Trend, Bulgaria Won’t Allow Prostitution

New York Times 6 Oct 2007
The Bulgarian government, which had been planning to legalize prostitution, abruptly reversed itself on Friday, part of a broad trend in Europe to impose bans as a way to combat sexual trafficking. “We should be very definite in saying that selling flesh is a crime,” Rumen Petkov, the interior minister, said at a forum on human trafficking on Friday, also attended by the president, the minister of justice and the United States ambassador to Bulgaria. Bulgaria is only the latest European country to shift its approach to prostitution. Finland last year made it illegal to buy sex from women brought in by traffickers, and Norway is on the verge of imposing an outright ban on purchasing sex. Even in Amsterdam, the city government has proposed shutting down more than a quarter of the famed storefront brothels in the red-light district. And in the Czech Republic and the three Baltic republics, attempts at legalization similar to the Bulgarian one have been turned back.Opponents of legal prostitution argue that illegal operations flourish in environments where paying for sex is permitted, and that human trafficking follows the demand. The goal of prohibiting sex-for-money is to reduce the demand, and thus curtail trafficking if not stamp it out entirely… The fight against legal prostitution has been led by an unusual coalition, including the Bush administration, feminist groups and the Swedish government. Proponents of measures like the Swedish model, which punishes customers rather than the prostitutes, say it has succeeded in Europe precisely because it singles out those who pay for sex without criminalizing those who provide it. The prostitutes, mostly women, are the real victims of the transactions, the proponents say.