Expatica news

Sex workers flood Copenhagen for climate talks

Copenhagen — Danish streetwalkers’ offer of free services to UN climate negotiators has evoked little interest but an influx of sex workers from eastern Europe has revived debate on a law allowing the sale of sex.

With an estimated 30,000 visitors from around the world due to visit Copenhagen during the UN climate talks due to continue until December 18, authorities have seen a flood of sex workers descend on the city.

"We’ve observed an increase in the number of prostitutes in the streets of Copenhagen, in particular from eastern Europe," police spokesman Lars-Christian Borg told AFP, noting that the world’s oldest profession "is not illegal in Denmark."

Danish law enforcement authorities have beefed up security for the UN conference and will "do our best to maintain law and order in the red light districts and hunt down the pimps," he warned, adding that procurement was illegal.

Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard had prior to the opening of the climate conference asked the city’s hotel owners to "not facilitate contact between their guests and prostitutes."

She also sent along postcards to the hotels to be distributed to guests, emblazoned with the slogan "Be Sustainable: Don’t Buy Sex."

The move sparked the ire of Danish sex workers: to protest against the campaign which it deemed "discriminatory," the country’s sex workers’ association SIO has since the start of the conference offered the services of its 85 members for free to delegates.

But the offer does not seem to have tantalized conference-goers during the first week.

"We have received four requests so far but our offer still stands," said Susanne Moeller, a former nurse who became the head of SIO to defend the interests of sex workers, who "must charge VAT and pay income tax" in Denmark.

She explained the lack of delegates’ interest by the fact that conference-goers "have to register on our site, provide their identity and state that they are a conference delegate if they want to benefit from our generosity."

"That may have dissuaded a fair amount of people."

Seven Copenhagen hotels have meanwhile launched a campaign against prostitution, an initiative led by Hotel Guldsmeden located on Helgolandsgade street in the city’s red light district.

"The scene has become much rougher and the prostitutes are getting younger and younger, some are just 16 according to the police," a Hotel Guldsmeden spokeswoman, Kirsten Skovgaard, said.

A banner unfurled on one building in the street reads: "No more Trafficking, Drug-dealing, Abuse, Fear."

Skovgaard said some businesses and people in the area "have had enough of watching this horrible sex trafficking beneath our windows."

Denmark is the only country in the Nordic region to allow both the sale and purchase of sex, its Nordic neighbours having outlawed the purchase of sex but not the sale in a bid to strangle demand.

There are normally nearly 6,000 sex workers working in Denmark’s clubs and streets, of whom around 2,500 are believed to be foreigners from eastern Europe and Africa.

The Danish sex workers are sometimes students, employees or mothers who want to earn a little extra money on the side by working in massage parlours or as escort girls, Moeller said.

At Waterloo, one of Copenhagen’s most well-known stripclubs where champagne served by hostesses flows in abundance every night, the climate conference has clearly had an effect.

"The effects are already being felt," says the manager Maria, adding that she expects "more and more clients" seeking a break and a bit of "distraction."

Slim Allagui/AFP/Expatica