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Bulgaria rejects legalizing prostitution in policy reversal

[JURIST] Bulgaria will not legalize prostitution as previously planned, according to Interior Minister Rumen Petkov, speaking Friday at a Sofia conference on "Legal and Institutional Mechanisms for Combating Trafficking of Women." Bulgarian Prosecutor General Boris Belchev told attendees at the same gathering that although legalization might theoretically yield income for the state, the option was unacceptable. The abrupt policy shift will bring Bulgaria into line with what appears to be a growing anti-prostitution movement in several European countries whose governments are increasingly concerned about human trafficking, which many European rights organizations say prostitution promotes [Coalition Against Trafficking in Women report, PDF]. Finland last year made it illegal to purchase sex from women brought to the country by traffickers and Norway is contemplating a full ban on the illicit sex trade. Sweden has meanwhile sought to suppress prostitution by punishing customers rather than the women themselves [Swedish Ministry of Industry fact sheet, PDF]. Bulgaria at present has no law formally banning or even defining prostitution, although pimping is technically prohibited.

Prostitution is still overtly legal in several European countries, including Hungary which recently began to issue licenses to sex workers [JURIST report] in an effort to bring the trade more out in the open where it can be regulated. The New York Times has more. SofiaEcho.com has local coverage.

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