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Elena, 22, took off her robe and stood up. Evaggelia, her year-old, fiery-tempered madam, immediately went into her pitch. Without taking off his sunglasses, the paunchy middle-aged client rubbed his chin and eyed Elena, a Russian-Polish prostitute, as she flipped her blond hair and turned in sky-high black heels. I was sitting a foot away on a small couch fitted with a plastic slipcover inside a brothel, witnessing this age-old transaction.
We were on Filis Street — a warren of alleyways and dingy two-story houses — which has been home to Athenian brothels for most of the past century. The collapsed economy and the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants have pushed even more women into prostitution — even as prices have fallen through the floor. And for all the talk of a new era in gender relations, with women around the world speaking out and forcing a reckoning against sexual violence, MeToo does not exist here in this room bathed in red and purple lights, where the women are silent and their bodies are for sale, and a coffee table is loaded with condoms.
In Greece, prostitution is legal in registered brothels, though the vast majority of brothels in Athens are unregistered. Street prostitution is illegal, yet women routinely sell sex on some street corners. While many women enter the profession out of economic necessity, others are trafficked or coerced into sex work. He found that the number of prostitutes in the city had increased by 7 percent since , yet prices have dropped drastically, both for women working on the streets and in brothels.
According to Greek law, a brothel has to be at least about feet away from schools, hospitals, churches, nurseries and public squares, among other places. Lazos found that only eight of the brothels operating in the city in August were legal.
The number was vastly different from the police statistics, which count no more than brothels in the city. A spokesman for the Athenian police, Theodoros Chronopoulos, explained that the official number does not include hidden brothels. Chronopoulos said that officers aggressively work to break up trafficking rings, pointing to rising arrests. But the police mostly leave brothels alone, he said, partly because of the sense among the authorities that they help single men deal with loneliness.