Pirates seek to legalize sex work

The move would benefit participants and bring money to the state

The Pirate Party seeks to legalize prostitution in the Czech Republic. They say that the government should stop turning a blind eye to it and instead regulate it within a legal framework.

Sex workers would pay taxes on income, like those involved in any other profession. Brothels owners would also be required to pay fees and taxes.

But doing so would require the Czech Republic to abandon an international treaty that opposes legal sex work.

“We want to limit the gray economy and health risks, and improve the conditions for people who provide prostitution,” Jakub Michálek, head of the Pirate Party’s club in Parliament, said when he presented the proposal.

The proposal also has support from Parliamentary Deputy Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS), a former Prague mayor, as well as former justice minister Helena Válková (ANO) and former Prague deputy mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD).

There is also support from TOP 09 members and from some nongovernmental agencies including Rozkoš bez rizika, which tries to improve conditions for sex workers.

“I very much welcome getting this initiative back on the table. For Prague, this is crucial,” Svoboda said.

Michálek claims that regulating sex work would simply be addressing the existing reality.

“We know from the surveys that one out of six men in the Czech Republic has the experience of paying for sex. … Night clubs will be here, whether we want them or not want. Instead of a flat ban on brothels, it would be more effective to set clear rules, such as there are for gambling or alcohol,” Michálek added.

“The number of persons systematically providing sexual services in the Czech Republic is estimated at 13,000 people, of which 56 percent are single mothers, which means that there are approximately 7,300 women in the Czech Republic who are in this situation.

Since we currently have obsolete laws, these women do not have health insurance today, they have no retirement insurance, they do not have legal reinsurance for their income and therefore they do not get their own housing, they cannot get a loan or a mortgage, and that's a big social problem,” Michálek said.

Regulation would also benefit the state, and bring in an estimated Kč 1 billion in taxes and fees per year. “The billion crowns a year could provide lunches for 100,000 school children from socially disadvantaged families,” he said, adding that Hungary’s state budget benefits from similar regulatory fees.

There are also potential health benefits “The data available from Switzerland in 2016 show that there has been a 16 percent decline in HIV after the regulation of prostitution," Michálek said.

The risk of spreading HIV was also mentioned by Bohuslav Svoboda, who is a medical doctor. Legalization would encourage sex workers to use protection.

Individual municipalities would be able to ban street prostitution by decree.

The proposal has a long path before it becomes law. The Ministry of the Interior has to submit the draft to the government. Then is has to pass both houses of Parliament and be signed by the president.

The Christian Democrats and Communists are expected to oppose the idea. “But it has support from the strongest [party] clubs in the lower house, so we assume it can pass,” Michálek.

Legalizing sex work would run counter to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which Czechoslovakia adhered to as of 1958, and the Czech Republic, as a successor state, since 1993.

The Czech Republic would have to exit the UN-backed convention if it legalizes sex work. The Czech Republic has considered legalizing sex work in the past, including exiting the UN convention, in 2005 and again in 2010 and 2014, but without success.

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