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IMPROPER legal regulation of street prostitution in Slovakia puts both prostitutes and inhabitants of areas where they work at risk - and the authorities seem to be doing little to improve the situation, say experts and Bratislava residents.
Although not a crime under the current penal code, prostitution cannot officially be carried out as a profession, because any commercial activity performed in Slovakia must, under the trades law, comply with accepted standards of morality.
Thus, prostitution falls into a grey area outside the law, unregulated and unrestricted, leading to a host of connected problems, including drug abuse and violence. Prostitutes who work in brothels are usually better protected than their street-walking colleagues because their employer can register the business as a "massage parlour" or "erotic bar" by charging for services other than prostitution. Out on the street, no such official registration can take place, leading many to call for a new law to protect street prostitutes.
City police say they have no information about the number of prostitutes working the capital's streets, and as prostitution is not officially against the law, they are concerned only with crimes related to the business, rather than the business itself. She added that the police are sometimes involved in preventative activities, "in cooperation with other state institutions and third-sector organisations.
The lack of legislation governing prostitution in Slovakia has led to local authorities in some parts of the country taking matters into their own hands and punishing prostitutes caught in the act. Although prostitution is not forbidden by law, municipalities are free to widen the scope of what is sanctioned as a misdemeanour on their territory. Some have adapted ordinances that make it illegal to offer or provide sexual services in public places. But the risk of being fined is only one of the hazards women face working on the streets of Slovakia.