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Disabled Danes are being encouraged to make monthly visits to prostitutes and reclaim the cost from the taxpayer, under laws intended to guarantee them equal rights. In a move that has provoked angry protests but has delighted the country's legalised sex industry, the Danish government has launched an information campaign advising the disabled how best to go about obtaining erotic services.
Stig Langvad, the chairman of the Danish Association for the Disabled, hailed the campaign as a triumph for equality. Danish law guarantees financial help from the state to ensure the disabled lead as normal a life as possible. They are entitled to reclaim the cost of converting a car, or to claim a subsidy on an expensive hotel room if cheaper ones lack necessary facilities. Now the regulations are being used to pay for visits to prostitutes after a disabled man - not named for legal reasons - won a legal action forcing officials to pay his expenses for the services of a call girl.
Councils across Denmark have been left with no choice but to follow suit. An advisory booklet produced by the Ministry of Social Affairs aims to inform the disabled of their sexual rights, and encourages their carers to contact providers of erotic services.
Opposition parties accuse the ministry of promoting prostitution, and accuse it of seeking to help one disadvantaged group by encouraging the exploitation of another. Kristen Brosboel, the opposition Social Democratic spokesman for equality issues, said: "A lot of time and government money has been spent trying to tackle the rising problem of prostitution, and yet this campaign encourages the disabled to use it. Women are being trafficked into Denmark and forced into the sex trade, and we should be trying to stop this.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs said: "We produced the leaflet because many people who care for the disabled were not sure if they were allowed to suggest using prostitutes. But that is not just what the brochure is about.