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Greek Brothels Suffer from COVID-19 Crisis

ATHENS, GREECE – Businesses across Greece have been slowly reopening, scrambling to make up for lost..

ATHENS, GREECE – Businesses across Greece have been slowly reopening, scrambling to make up for lost work after a shutdown of more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relaunch isn’t easy, especially for those in marginalized professions, such as sex workers, who say they are among the hardest hit.

In the small city of Larisa, north of the Greek capital, Soula Alevridou operates one of the region’s top brothels.

For years, she said, business was booming. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Now, times are tough.

“There is very little work,” Alevridou said. “Almost nothing. This industry has been hurt badly, and it feels as if its workers are coming out of a war, all of them injured. Those who manage to recover will survive, but it is tough.”

Under a new set of government health and safety regulations, brothels must now implement new protective measures to prevent coronavirus infections.

They require sex workers to wear masks, keep their heads a distance from customers and take on appointments of no more than 15 minutes, all measures the industry has agreed to.

Names and contact numbers

However, orders to register clients names and contact numbers, as well as to keep them in orderly lines outside brothels, have prostitutes balking, saying the measures strike at the very foundation of their service: anonymity.

“Keeping records of clients, their names and contacts may be right,” Alevridou said. “It assists health authorities in tracking and tracing potential cases.” Sex workers, though, she said, cannot play the role of police officers. The sex trade is a different business altogether, she said.

Cashless payments, now required, are also proving a problem.

A married man, Alevridou said, cannot go to a brothel and pay with his cash or credit card. His family probably shares the same card and he’s bound to have problems once his wife or son or daughter get a whiff of the bordello charges, she said.

Critics say the measures will be impossible to impose.

“It’s highly unlikely that these measures will be observed,” said Thanos Askitis, a leading sex therapist in Greece. Ultimately, he said, they will add no further protection to the industry. It will all boil down to luck or lack of it in containing the crisis on this front, he said.

So far, no cases have been recorded nationwide involving Greek sex workers.

However, the financial beating the industry has suffered in recent months, plus the new measures imposed, have many sex workers returning to the streets, branching out online or just going underground to eke out a living.

800 brothels

The crisis is much more prevalent in big cities, such as Athens, where most sex workers are already operating illegally. Authorities said they count about 800 brothels, but only a third of them are legally listed.

While the Greek government has offered financial assistance to those who have lost their income because of the COVID-19 crisis, no adequate provisions have been made for the sex industry.

To qualify for the aid payments, workers must show they are operating legally and have been paying taxes. That is impossible, though, for the uncounted numbers of unregistered sex workers here, mainly migrants, who cannot do so because they lack legal status.

Unlike other countries across Europe and beyond, sex workers here have received little, if any, support from local charity groups.

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Instagram to block all content promoting LGBT conversion therapy

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 20:35Modified: 10/07/2020 – 20:38

Instagram said on Friday it would block ..

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 20:35Modified: 10/07/2020 – 20:38

Instagram said on Friday it would block content that promotes so-called conversion therapy, which aims to alter a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, as pressure to ban the practice grows.

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The social media giant announced earlier this year it would no longer allow adverts for conversion therapy services, which can range from counselling and "praying away the gay" to electric shocks and sexual violence.

"We don't allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity," Tara Hopkins, Instagram's public policy director for Europe, Middle East and Africa said in an emailed statement.

"(We) are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services."

A spokesman for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it would take time to update all policies and content flagged by users may not be removed immediately.

The United Nations independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity called last month for a global ban on conversion therapy, describing it as "cruel, inhumane and degrading".

A growing number of countries – including the United States, Canada, Chile and Mexico – are reviewing their laws. Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have nationwide bans on conversion therapy, while Germany outlawed the treatment for minors in May.

'Step in the right direction'

Instagram's move is "a step in the right direction, but we'd have to wait and see exactly what kind of actions they take," Harry Hitchens, co-founder of the campaign group Ban Conversion Therapy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ban Conversion Therapy sent an open letter yesterday to Britain's Equalities Minister Liz Truss, urging her "to introduce a truly effective ban on conversion therapy for all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and gender diverRead More – Source

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Serbia, Kosovo resume very difficult talks on normalising ties

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 19:27Modified: 10/07/2020 – 19:30

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on Frid..

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The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on Friday held their first talks in 18 months on resolving one of Europe's most intractable territorial disputes, agreeing to a face-to-face meeting next week on the “very difficult” process.

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Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence after the province broke away in the bloody 1998-99 war that was ended only by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops.

Kosovos Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a video summit that was also joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

These discussions will be followed by more online talks on Sunday between Hoti and Vucic as well as EU officials, and then their meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Macron and Merkel said in a joint statement after the talks.

They encouraged Hoti and Vucic to “achieve substantial progress in the negotiations in the coming months,” the statement said.

“There are very difficult perspectives for the outcome of this dialogue, but there is a commitment by everyone to proceed step by step,” added a French presidential official, who asked not to be named.

Both Kosovo and Serbia have been facing mounting pressure from the West to resolve the impasse, which is seen as crucial to either side joining the EU.

“The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia is essential for the security and stability of the region and of great importance if the two countries are to join the EU,” the statement by the French and German leaders said.

A senior EU official in Brussels who followed the talks echoed the sentiment that significant challenges remained, saying “This is the beginning of the story.”

Hoti told the online summit that the normalisation of relations “can be achieved only if Kosovo and Serbia respect each other's statehood,” his office said.

Leadership test

More than 13,000 people died in the war, mostly Kosovo Albanians, who form a majority in the former province.

Vucic, who is facing a major crisis at home after protests over a new coronavirus lockdown in Serbia, had warned ahead of the talks that he did not expect a smooth ride and that “no one is going to cuddle us or give us a present.”

The new push comes after Kosovos President Hashim Thaci was charged last month with war crimes by prosecutors in The Hague.

Thaci's indictment led to the postponement of a White House summit between Serbia and Kosovo due to be held at the end of June.

European officials had bristled at the US initiative to deal with Thaci on its own — a strategy now torpedoed by the indictment — and the EU now appears newly determined to resolve the issue.

The French official acknowledged that this issue was a “tRead More – Source

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UK travellers hope to salvage holidays as government eases quarantine rules

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 17:09

The traditional British summer getaway to the sun-soaked beaches of ..

Issued on: 10/07/2020 – 17:09

The traditional British summer getaway to the sun-soaked beaches of the Mediterranean Sea is set to pick up steam Friday as U.K. quarantine restrictions are removed from dozens of countries, including France, Greece and Italy.

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But with many flights still canceled, holiday resorts still working on ensuring that they are Covid-safe and many potential holidaymakers reluctant to make a trip abroad in light of the pandemic, Britain's airports are much less busy than they would be in any other year.

However, last weeks announcement by the British government to ease its quarantine requirements for anyone arriving back in England has given some enough of a nudge to take the plunge.

“We probably would have gone later,” said Ray Gordge, 64, at Gatwick Airports North Terminal, south of London.

“Its exciting, Im pleased the quarantine has been lifted to be honest,” said Gordge, who was on his way to Paris to see his daughter for the first time in six months, and meet his new grandson, born last week.

As of Friday, anyone arriving back in England from around 75 countries and territories wont have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Boost for travel industry

The aviation and travel industries are hoping that the new rules will help them salvage part of the summer holiday booking season that has been so battered by the restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic – thousands of people have lost their jobs as business ground to a halt.

The crucial period will be later this month after schools formally close for the summer and travel companies and airlines start ramping up operations. Confidence is key, though, and is susceptible to any new outbreaks that may start appearing over the coming weeks.

Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said the relaxation of the rules can make a “massive difference,” given that around three-quarters of the destinations the airport serves are now free from quarantine requirements.

“From a consumer point of view, what were hoping is that will persuade people to take advantage of the flights,” he said.

Wingate said that there would be around 50 flights at the airport on Friday, rising to around 100 by the end of the month and possibly to around 400 later in the summer – way below the 900 or so the airport normally handles in the peak season.

Masks compulsory

The list does not include the United States, which is still considered high-risk. Portugal, another popular destination for British holidaymakers, also isn't on the list, though discussions between the respective governments are ongoing. Serbia was originally on the list but was removed on Friday because of a spike in coronavirus infections in the country.

One of the major changes that will greet holidaymakers is the necessity tRead More – Source

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