Sex Work in Albania – an Overview
Sex Work is illegal in Albania. The Penal Code anticipates a punishment varying from a simple fine up to three years of detention for persons practicing commercial sex. Before 1990s this law was strictly enforced and it can be said that commercial sex work almost disappeared during that time. After 1990s, several developments occurred:
• Sharp socio-economic changes took place following the collapse of the communist regime. A large number of families remained without the necessary economic means, in some cases suffering from extreme economic deprivation. The most affected strata were the population living in the rural area, the families that migrated from rural to the urban area and some ethnical minorities (Roma people and Evgjite community). Many young girls from these population groups either become the target of human trafficking or freely decided to practice sex work in or outside the country as the sole way to obtain economic support.
• A large number of Albanian girls were trafficked abroad (initially to Greece and Italy and later to Benelux and UK) and were exploited there as commercial sex workers. There are no accurate estimates of their number. Governmental sources claim 5,000, NGO sources up to 30,000.
• Girls from other Eastern European Countries (such as Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, etc) are being trafficked via Albania with destination countries in Western Europe.
As a result, commercial sex started to be practiced in the country and to become visible. There have been no scientific studies to estimate the number of commercial sex workers (CSW) in the country, but according to anecdotic and press reports they can be divided into four groups:
• Albanian and foreign girls who are trafficked abroad are first exploited as CSW in Albania. There have never been attempts to estimate their number. Usually the exploitation starts by rape. There are press articles reporting abuse and inhuman treatment of this category of CSW.
• Commercial sex workers coming from low socio-economic strata (mostly Roma population or Gypsy community), otherwise known as “street prostitutes”. Street prostitutes can be seen in Tirana, offering sexual services near the city center, on the main roads and in the area of the National Park “Liqeni”. The price of services varies from 500 to 1,500 Leke (€3 - €12). According to the information from Albanian Lesbian and Gay Association, there are also male sex workers from Roma population or Gypsy community who practice street sex work.
• Higher level commercial sex workers who work in hotels and motels of Tirana and other big cities. According to press reports they are mostly students - one newspaper article claimed up to 300 female students in Tirana alone practice sex work - girls from rural areas and other districts recently settled in Tirana and other big cities and CSW who returned from abroad. Prices of their sexual service vary from €30 to several hundreds Euro.
• CSW in “brothels” – these are often private apartments that are used for commercial sex work. They operate illegally and there are frequent media articles reporting police detecting brothels and arresting CSW. Media reported police raids on brothels in Tirana and Korca in 2002-2003. The prices vary from 1,500 (€12) to a few thousands Leke.
Little has been done to estimate the epidemiological situation among CSW. Out of the 24 women living with HIV/AIDS in Albania, 4-5 have probably been infected through CSW. Efforts to estimate the epidemiological situation of HIV among CSW include also promotion of Couples Voluntary Counseling and Testing (CVCT) among the victims of traffic and/or former CSW sheltered in the shelters of IOM.