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Germany

Germany to Punish Customers of Forced Prostitutes

German officials are drafting legislation to sentence men for up to 10 years in prison if they obtain sexual services from women forced into prostitution, according to a report in a news magazine.

Two prostitutes at a Czech night club

German authorities are worried about women being forced into the sex trade

A Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed to German news agency dpa that a draft of the bill was under review, but gave no details. He said both Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and their junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, had agreed to clamp down on forced prostitution.

Regular prostitution is legal in Germany, with cities zoning land for brothels. Prostitutes appear on TV and pay income tax.

But authorities are concerned that some women, typically illegal immigrants from poor nations in eastern Europe, are employed against their will by pimps who demand repayment of vast "recruitment fees."

Some say law too weak

The new rules would make it a crime for a man to commit sexual abuse "in a situation where the victim is helpless." Currently it is not a crime to buy the services of a prostitute in Germany.

Der Spiegel said lawyers in Merkel's own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) considered the draft too weak because a customer could avoid prosecution by claiming ignorance about the fact that the prostitute was forced into the profession.

Legislator Siegfried Kauder said the sexual act should be considered a crime if a customer carelessly ignored evidence of duress, such as bruises on a woman.

The justice ministry spokesman said there were plans to pass the legislation before the autumn 2009 general election.

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