Romanian authorities are planning to legalize prostitution as a way to help fight human trafficking and sex slavery, police said Friday.
Selling sexual favors is now a crime punishable by fines or up to three years in prison in Romania.
However, because the crime is considered petty, most prostitutes only face fines, with some prostitutes collecting over 500 fines in the last two years, Bucharest police said. The fines are rarely paid, and tax collection authorities cannot enforce them as most prostitutes have no legal income.
For years, rights groups have called for legalizing prostitution to help contain diseases and help fight trafficking of women for sex. The conservative Orthodox Church has objected, however, saying parliament would be telling the public that sin should be tolerated.
The Health Ministry said Friday it supported legalizing prostitution for public health reasons.
A group which includes specialists from the national agency for preventing human trafficking, police and criminologists is drafting legislation to decriminalize prostitution.
Pimps face up to seven years in prison, or up to 20 years if they traffic minors, but despite efforts by law enforcement sex trafficking remains widespread, reports AP.