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St Petersburg minister Olga Galkina says she hopes the bill will spark a conversation about sex work legislationReuters

Russia's parliament is to consider a controversial bill that says men who are caught with prostitutes will have their crime forgotten if they agree to marry the sex worker.

The initiative in St Petersburg , Russia's second largest city, introduces heavy fines for the clients of prostitutes, who must pay more than double if a court can prove the person in question knew the prostitute had been forced into sex work. The bill would also see foreign nationals convicted of having sex with someone for money deported immediately after they pay their fine.

Interestingly, the bill - proposed by Olga Galkina who represents the pro-business Civil Platform party - says clients can evade punishment altogether if they "marry the person that provided the sex services", Russia Today reports.

In an explanatory note attached to the draft bill, Galkina says international experience of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland shows that introducing responsibility for clients helps decrease the prostitution rate.

The proposal, which introduces fines of between 4,000 and 100,000 roubles (£58-£1,460) or between five and 15 days in jail for those convicted, must be approved by the St Petersburg city legislature and then sent to the federal parliament in Moscow before it can become national law.

In comments made to regional newspaper Kommersant-St Petersburg, Galkina said that she drafted the controversial bill in order to "start a public discussion on the issue" of prostitution, and in reality she advocates full legalisation of sex work.

At present, prostitution in Russia is illegal but is not considered a serious crime. The punishment is typically a small fine of 1,500 roubles (£22).