Over the past two decades prostitution in Athens has become a real ticking bomb, which is known to all competent authorities.
The first "bang", which shook the capital was the data released by the Centre for Control and Prevention of Diseases according to which 17 prostitutes in illegal brothels are HIV positive. This news just confirmed the fears and simultaneously increased the worries about the chain of effects, which the lack of preventive and medical supervision bears on the health of thousands.
The data are striking. Between "Sofokleous" street and the Metaxourgeio neighbourhood 315 illegal brothels are in operation. According to the City of Athens in December, only three brothels were authorized, but none of them have filed an application for licence renewal.
However, more and more central streets are becoming "piazzas" for prostitutes at night, and the problem is exacerbated because most women work illegally and without compulsory health books.
The "piazzas" are scattered throughout the centre of Athens, but recently the phenomenon has spread within a radius of about 1.5 kilometres from Omonia Square, in all directions, and it continues to grow steadily.
The City of Athens said the state is not able to cope with the situation since the only thing it can do is to close the brothels with no permits. According to Deputy Mayor Nelly Papahela, the main reason for this is the legislative framework as it is "ineffective and hypocritical" because it does not allow most brothels to be legalized.
On one hand the law sets stringent requirements for authorization and on the other, illegal brothels open again shortly after they whave been closed, she stresses.
Proposal to amend the law
Therefore, the municipality has drawn up a proposal for a change in the legislation, which was presented in parliament last February.
"With the existing law we cannot control any of the brothels. We close one, then two new ones open", Nelly Papahela notes, adding that even when arrests are made, the detainees are released after several hours, because their offences are considered to be too general. As a result, this creates a feeling of impunity and "nurseries" to facilitate trafficking generate around the brothels.
According to Nelly Papahela even the brothel on "Fokeas" and "Aharnon" streets, where the first HIV positive prostitute was discovered, has opened its doors again. "We start the procedures to close the brothel, but they are time consuming, and even if it is closed immediately, after half an hour it will open again", she stresses, adding that in 2011 the municipality has re-closed about 300 brothels and 87 new ones.
It should be noted that in 2011 the municipal police had issued each month about 10 orders to close brothels. Of these, only about 40 percent were performed because of ambiguities in the law, which allows appeal of those orders if taken to court.
"Piazzas" for paid love
"Piazzas" for paid love are scattered throughout the centre of Athens. "Phillis" street and the streets surrounding it is the main area where illegal brothels operate.
The list of existing illegal brothels in the capital, which was compiled by the movement of citizens from the centre of Athens, is of particular interest. Data provided to the prosecutor of the Supreme Court Ioannis Tentes illustrate the existing situation.
The Keramiko-Metaxourgeio area "hosts" 20-25 percent (70) of the brothels and "studios" in the Greek capital. In addition, 57 brothels can be found around "Iasonos" and "Kolonou" streets and the 13 "studios" - mainly around the streets "Iera Odos" and "Konstantinoupoleos".
Residents in the area, who have already reached the limit of their patience, are pushing for the permanent closure of brothels, and the coordinator of the Movement Dimitris Nikolakopoulos states that brothels "stigmatize neighbourhoods and isolate over 8,000 properties amounting to over 800 million Euros, located in area surrounded by "Iera Odos", "Konstantinoupoleos", "Ahileos", "Omonia" and "Piraeus" streets."
The particular thing about "Iasonos" street, as the Movement stresses, is that it is part of the city with traditional Greek architecture. 30 of the 57 buildings have been declared as protected. However, many brothels operate on this street and 20 are active in 12 protected buildings, which is prohibited by law.
Besides the illegal brothels, an increase of women who offer themselves on the street, is being registered. On one side of "Kapodistriou" street African women offer their services and on the other side - women from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. On "Eshilou" street young women offer their bodies and a bit up the street in Metaxourgeio, there is another "piazza". Women from Nigeria, who were blackmailed to come to Greece and threatened with voodoo magic from international trafficking networks, seek customers on "Evripidou" and "Sokratous" streets.
On the other hand in the Gazi neighbourhood, around the streets "Megalou Alexandrou", "Iera Odos", "Konstantinoupoleos", "Kassandras" and "Piraeus" more and more brothels are opening, calling themselves "studios".
Illegal profits amount to 100 million Euros annually.
Prostitution has reached unmanageable proportions and illegal brothels are appearing like mushrooms in the centre of Athens.
Older hotels in the centre of the capital have been turned into brothels, and in recent years "studios" or as they call themselves "Centres of bodily health" have become places for paid sex.