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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Asked to Legalize Prostitution

Saratov's human rights commissioner urged skeptical State Duma deputies Tuesday to follow his region's lead in decriminalizing prostitution, arguing that regulating the country's growing sex trade would help crack down on disease and delinquency.

The governor of the southern Saratov region, Dmitry Ayatskov, has given prostitution de facto legal status and hopes to further regulate the world's oldest profession to cut down on sexually transmitted disease and tuberculosis in the region, human rights commissioner Alexander Lando said.

"This is about the health of the nation," he told reporters.

Lando has helped draft a bill on legalizing prostitution that would oblige prostitutes to undergo bimonthly medical exams and practice their trade at least 500 meters from any cultural or educational facility.

"It is women's choice -- and it is possible within the current Constitution, which says everyone has the right to choose their own profession," he said.

"There is no other way. No country in Europe has found any other solution" to regulating prostitution, he added.

Duma deputies said, however, that they may soon consider another bill that would toughen the law on prostitution, stiffening fines and sentences for both those who sell and buy sex.

Deputy Gennady Gudkov, of the pro-Kremlin People's Deputy faction, said the Duma would soon consider penal code reforms that would include a bill following Sweden's example in cracking down on men who solicit prostitutes. "This is a first step in solving this problem. We must target not only those who sell, but those who buy," he said.

Gudkov poured cold water on Lando's proposal. "Yes, there is a problem," he said. "We have mass prostitution today, but we should not legalize it."