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Age of female consent: 16 The law of 13 April contains penal provisions relating to the punishment of trafficking in human beings, child pornography and sexual abuse of minors.
However, local attitudes differ markedly: the nature of the systematic controls practised at the levels of the police, the administration, the social services and the tax authorities varies greatly between regions. Until the fifties, there was an official prostitution policy with registration and health checks etc. That was abolished, but certain cities have re-implemented this policy unofficially.
The high degree of tolerance attached to the exploitation of prostitution in Belgium has been fully taken advantage of by eastern European traffickers. No coherent policy of controls exists as regards asylum requests.
In both the Brussels region and Antwerp, the problem of the abuse of asylum procedures for trafficking in human beings and exploitation of prostitution is such as to require urgent action. In Antwerp, checks are carried out by the city police 'police communale' , while the 'gendarmerie' is responsible for legal cases relating to trafficking and the 'police judiciaire' deals with the financial aspects of cases. Despite this division of labour, the leniency of the legal authorities continues to work to the benefit of the pimps and 'window' owners, who can draw on the resources of a highly developed organisation According to the report on the IOM's STOP programme, in 49 cases of trafficking were investigated, none of which reached the courts; in there were 57 such investigations, of which only one resulted in the conviction of the traffickers.
In Brussels, the hotel brothels in rue d'Aerschot, behind the Gare du Nord in the borough of Schaerbeek, generate an annual turnover estimated at BEF 1 bn". Belgian policy on trafficking in persons can be considered a positive example: considerable progress has been achieved by comparison with other EU Member States. However, much still remains to be done. The laws have to be adapted to changing trends in society: the number of victims appears to be greater every year.