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June 02, 2000 02:59pm
World's Prostitutes Confer at Other Berlin Summit
Source: Reuters
by: Adam Tanner

(BERLIN) -- A 14-nation conference on modern government attended by US President Bill Clinton is not the only global summit taking place in Berlin. Hundreds of prostitutes were comparing notes on their ancient profession at a gathering in the German capital aimed at improving the lot of sex workers worldwide.

As stall-vendors offered advice on condoms and sold sex lubricants at a local community center, speakers focused on healthcare, pensions and other shortcomings in a profession prostitutes said deserved more respect and recognition.

``The job I like, but the conditions I don't like,'' said Berliner Stephanie Klee, 39. ``I like the sexuality. I like to be together with different men, and I've learned a lot from my clients. And I like the money.'' But she and many others complained about the high cost of health insurance and the lack of a pension and other social benefits that workers in Germany, at least, have come to expect. ``We want our work to become a completely legitimised profession,'' said Lady Linda, 41, a dominatrix in black lipstick, fishnet stockings and a leather jacket.

Some visitors from abroad envied the better conditions in Germany, however, including the wider recognition of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

Anne Macharia of Kenya said most men in Africa refused to wear a condom and often paid more for the privilege.

``We are trying to educate them and make a system in which no one will come without a condom,'' she said. ``If you do not address sex workers, who are a high-risk group, it will be fruitless to address HIV and AIDS.''

Ruediger Grosch, 29, said he had worked for several years as an HIV-positive gay prostitute, but told his clients about his condition and always used a condom.

``Berlin is very crowded,'' said Grosch, who retired more than two years ago. ``It is difficult to make money in prostitution.'' Organisers said prostitutes in Germany can make between 1,000 and 20,000 marks a month. By contrast, some prostitutes in Kenya earn only $1 a client, Macharia said.

The five day-conference, which ends on June 5, offers a mix of art, film and practical seminars, including self defence tips.

Some said it was fitting that the event was taking place as Clinton, who survived a sex scandal last year, was in town.

Klee, a 20-year veteran of the trade, said that as she arrived on Friday she had seen an official delegation with sirens racing up behind her. ``I thought Bill Clinton was behind and perhaps he wanted to visit us,'' she said.

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