In an effort to bring prostitutes into the legal economy, officials said Monday that Hungary will allow sex workers to apply for an entrepreneur's permit — a move that could generate government revenues from an industry worth an estimated $1 billion annually.
Human rights groups often have criticized European Union member Hungary for legalizing prostitution — which has been fully allowed under certain conditions since 1999. Opponents say legalization does not help prostitutes.
The permits allow prostitutes to give receipts to customers and become part of the legal economy by paying taxes and making social security contributions, said Agnes Foldi, head of the Hungarian Prostitutes' Interest Protection Association. . . .
Prostitutes in Hungary, can work legally only within certain zones — distant from schools and churches — and must get regular medical checkups. Pimping and bordellos are banned.
Prostitution is legal in most of the EU with a few exceptions such as Ireland, where it is banned. The Netherlands has legislation comparable to Hungary's, where prostitution has a similar status to other jobs. . . . there are about 7,000-9,000 full-time prostitutes in Hungary, rising to as many as 20,000 during the summer tourist season. . . .
Hungary is a signatory of the 1950 United Nations convention for the suppression of human trafficking and prostitution. But officials claimed the program did not go against the spirit of the convention because even though prostitutes would now be able to get licenses, the government would not keep a separate registry of them. . . .
Janice Raymond of the U.S.-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women said by issuing entrepreneurial permits to prostitutes, Hungary is violating its international treaty obligations under the U.N. convention. She said countries such as Hungary that have ratified the convention agree not to regulate prostitution or subject women to any administrative controls such as registration and taxation.