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Prostitution Legalization in Albania! Would it Really Help?

This article is taken from the website of the Media Diversity Institute.
The easiest way to get rid of the human suffering inherent in sex trafficking is to recognize the world's oldest profession and legalize it, according to some Albanian legal authorities.
In one American state, Nevada, the home of Las Vegas, prostitution is legal in state inspected brothels. Amsterdam has long been known for its Red Light district featuring the famous girls in the picture windows displaying their bodies for sale.
Could legalization work in Albania…again? More

That's right, again. Under the Italian occupation prostitution was a legal industry from 1939 to 1944. Women were licensed in brothels.
The first step toward legalization in Albania would be the annulment of the old communist law that punishes the woman rather than the pimp.
Punishing the women is the beginning of making victims into criminals, said Diana Çuli, a women's rights activist and writer who also counsels women suffering abuses.
Çuli, head of Albanian Woman Forum, a local NGO assisting women in trouble, said that figures from the Save the Children NGO that indicate that Albanian women are serving as prostitutes around Europe are exaggerated. But the outdated law prohibiting prostitution is actually increasing the number of trafficked women, according to Çuli.
"Traffickers escape without suffering anything from the legal process and the moment they come out of the court door they rush to recruit other women, who are later sold as common objects," Çuli said. "This law should change."

Poverty is the primary force leading women to traffickers, according to Elsa Ballauri, head of the Albanian Human Rights Watch, an international NGO. Leaving these women caught between the ineffective trafficking laws and the harsh prostitution statute only guarantees their pimps the control to exploit them.
The answer is to take the business away from the pimps, Ballauri said.
"The world's experience with legalization has shown that it assists the women and the society too," Ballauri said. "Legalizing prostitution in Albania would reduce the number of women trafficked, and make it easier to provide health care for the women who are involved in prostitution."

But legalization would also increase the commercial exploitation of women, according to other legal authorities.
That danger is very real in an Albania without a stable government, according to Vjollca Meçi, head of a women's lawyers center.
"The Albanian government and administration would find it hard to control this new trade, when you consider that it is already finding it hard to keep other activities under control," Meçi said.
Meçi, however, is willing to consider legalization in a more stable economic environment.
"If prostitution would become legal now then instead of the destroyed kiosks (that blight the Tirana center) we would have brothels," she said.
Legal prostitution is not a new phenomenon for Albania. Spartak Ngjela, former Minister of Justice, said prostitution was a thriving business during the Second World War years under the fascist occupation from 1939-1944.
Prostitution was permitted only in brothels controlled by the occupying government. There were houses for the public and special houses for the Italian and German soldiers. The profession was limited to imported prostitutes from Italy. There were no Albanian women involved.
It wasn't until the 1990s that Albania returned the export when traffickers began the illegal mass emigration of Albanian girls to the streets of Italy.
Ismail Kadare, a well-known Albanian novelist and some times candidate for the Nobel Prize, described the bizarre co-existence between traditional Albanian villagers and the western European brothels during World War II in two of his novels ("General of the Dead Army" and "Stone Chronicle").
Kadare's fictional southern town is able to accept the brothels without damage to family life because no Albanian women are affected, and the past traditions of Ottoman governors, who often had substantial harems.
Despite the war experience, Ngjela, said the idea of legalization now is not worth discussing. "Albanians would hardly accept such an idea."
If prostitution was legalized, the lawyer said Albania would soon find its new industry adding to the suffering of families whose daughters have been disappearing to the streets of cities all over Western Europe.

"It would be the opposite of what was seen during the Italian fascist occupation when the Italian army opened brothels with women from their own country," Ngjela said. "With legalization, Albania would very soon turn into the biggest 'raw material' producer for Italy."

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