BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The 'World Whores Congress' ended today with a demand that governments guarantee prostitutes full human rights and act to protect their health.
Several prostitutes wearing masks at a crowded and often confused news conference demanded the legalization of their trade so they can obtain insurance like other workers.
'The stigma is carried on by the laws that deny whores all human rights,' said Margo St. James, director of the International Committee for Prostitutes Rights (ICPR), which organized the congress that brought together 180 prostitutes from 16 countries.
Physicians speaking at the end of the three-day conclave stressed the need to educate the public and advertise the use of condoms to protect the health of prostitutes. They pointed out that regular health checks for prostitutes are mandatory in West Germany but most men there refuse to use condoms.
'There is a need to educate men who should be held responsible for the spread of disease,' said Dr. Marjo Meijers, a general practitioner in Amsterdam. She said the congress would send a letter to West German health authorities on the subject.
'We are astonished to learn that they are relying on tests and not on the use of condoms,' she said. 'Regular check-ups do not prevent transmission of disease.'
Dr. Peter Greenhouse, a London gynecologist, said it was 'unfortunate the use of condoms is not advertised' in many countries. 'Prostitutes are well educated about how to protect themselves. Use of condoms by their clients would give them better protection.'
Margo St. James attacked British Prime Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher's attitude toward prostitution.
'She doesn't want to talk about it. As a matter of fact she stopped the change in legislation. She made things a lot worse for women in general. That forced more women on the game,' she said.
Gill, 42, a London prostitute, said: 'The problem in England is mainly hypocrisy.'
A Dutch prostitute said: 'The time is ripe to legalize our work as whores, so that we can finally be fully insured like other working people.'
Nel van Dijk, Dutch member of the Green-Alternative Group (GRAEL) in the European Parliament, said her faction was happy it had been able to allow the congress to be held in the Parliament's Brussels building.
'The testimonies we heard confirmed our opinion that the human rights situation for whores looks apalling,' she said. 'We have to work toward decriminalizing prostitution, to break the stigma.
Van Dijk called for a dialogue between prostitutes and politicians. 'And that dialogue should take place not in the working rooms of the prostitutes, but in those of the politicians and in meeting rooms like this one,' she said.