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Nights are quiet now on Pravda Street. The girls are hidden away, often in taxis parked next to the road. Authorities contend they are battling criminal networks, not prostitution, which Kyrgyzstan decriminalized in They want sex work out in the open where it can be better monitored. Since the vice squads started hitting the streets in November, sex workers complain that though they are not breaking the law, they are often rounded up and taken to police stations.
There, police catalogue their fingerprints, along with photos and contact details; some are also forced to submit to STD tests. During a two-day police operation in December, for example, 70 women were detained, fingerprinted and tested. They are usually between 16 and 25 years old and many of them are sent to Turkey or the United Arab Emirates for prostitution or the organ trade. This database helps us identify the victims of human trafficking and murder.
Though he could not provide a percentage, he said some were HIV-positive. With the increased raids, a shy, year-old sex worker told EurasiaNet. That is about as much as she earns per client. Adylov said he is aware of the problem. He also claimed certain groups had impersonated police officers for the sole purpose of collecting bribes. Beyond the evident corruption, the police approach is counterproductive, contended Shahnaz Islamova, the head of Tais Plus, a local non-governmental organization NGO that educates sex workers on how to protect themselves and about their legal rights.
They leave their villages to find a job in Bishkek to support their families, or pay for university. They hope to have another job and a husband in the future. Tais Plus distributes free condoms as well as coupons for free, anonymous blood tests. Since , the NGO has recruited pimps and mamochki as outreach workers.
Nailia, the mamochka on Pravda Street is one of them and on the night a EurasiaNet. Tais Plus has its own statistics about STD rates that are less alarming than the ones the police distribute. The NGO says 20 percent of sex workers tested in had syphilis, a decline compared to the previous year, when the rate was 45 percent. Tais Plus adds that 2 percent of the women are HIV-positive. Kyrgyzstan should encourage tests for sex workers and others engaging in risky behavior, not force them to test and stigmatize them with registration, said Islamova, who worries the powerful new vice squad is pushing the girls into the shadows.