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Brazil Prostitutes Get Soc. Security

Associated Press, Wednesday 22 November 2002, 3:32 PM ET

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Prostitutes in Brazil can now qualify for social security pensions, health benefits and maternity leave, the Social Welfare Ministry said Wednesday.

By enrolling prostitutes in social security, the government hopes to identify them and monitor their health better, Social Welfare Secretary Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro said. According to government figures, nearly one-fourth of Brazil's 165 million people aren't signed up for social security.

The government also is anxious to expand its social security rolls to cover a growing deficit. Recently, the Social Security office announced it would extend benefits to contributing Indians, street vendors and priests and priestesses of popular Afro-Brazilian animist religions.