Prostitutes in Greece demand brothel license

A prostitute puts on a headscarf in front of the Interior Ministry in Athens on Wednesday Jan. 20, 2010. About 100 prostitutes protested in central Athens demanding working licenses for brothels across Greece and amendments to the existing law (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

January 20, 2010 9:00:41 AM PST
Dozens of prostitutes, most using headscarves or hoods to hide their faces, demonstrated in central Athens Wednesday, demanding working licenses for brothels across Greece. Prostitution is legal in Greece, and sex workers have personal permits to exercise their profession. But they can only do that by walking the streets, not using brothels. As a result, many end up working illegally and facing arrest because they operate out of brothels.

"We are here to put an end to our hardship and degradation," said Dimitra Kanellopoulou, president of Greece's sex workers' association, SEPE. "The situation is tragic, hypocritical and miserable."

About 100 sex workers held a rally outside the Interior Ministry, chanting: "We will not back down until we are given justice."

"We want to be able to work legally in brothels and not on the streets," said 47-year-old Maria K., who has been working as a prostitute for more than 20 years. She would not give her surname.

Kanellopoulou, the head of the union, said Interior Minister Yannis Ragoussis met briefly with union members and agreed to discuss their grievances, including cutting red tape and making it easier for prostitutes to obtain licenses.