February 28, 2007 / 11:31 AM / 13 years ago

Romania minister plans to legalise prostitution

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania, which is struggling to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation, plans to tackle the rise in prostitution by legalising it, Interior Minister Vasile Blaga told Realitatea TV.

“The interior ministry has initiated a legislative project to legalise prostitution,” Blaga told the private television station late on Tuesday, adding that a draft law should be ready for public consultation in about a month.

Romania, a poor Black Sea state of 22 million which joined the European Union last month, is among 11 countries listed by the United Nations as the biggest sources of human trafficking, based on reported numbers of victims.

“If we put our cards on the table, weighing advantages and disadvantages of such a law, I believe it will be positive,” Blaga told Realitatea TV.

Every year thousands of women, some as young as 13, are kidnapped or lured by promises of well-paid jobs or marriage and sold to gangs who lock them up in night clubs and brothels or force them to work on the streets.

Even more women could be at risk if traffickers take advantage of the easier access to EU states in richer western Europe to force more Romanian women to work as prostitutes there, observers say.

Romania’s influential Orthodox Church has criticised any talk of legalising prostitution, and could try to mobilise public opinion against the government’s plans.

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