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Part 1: confronting abuses in the workplace

“People don’t go into the hospitals and beat up the doctors for doing their job !”

This interview with Victoriya, a sex worker from Kazakhstan from June 2008, provides a unique perspective on the local sex work situation. She touches on sex workers’ relationship wit the police, the changing nature of the profession and the little-discussed phenomena of heterosexual male sex workers selling sex to women. While the interview is frank and honest, she seems optimistic and has some words of encouragement for her fellow sex workers.

Can you tell me about sex work in Kazakhstan ?

About two years ago, you could see girls on the street. Right now, the Department of Internal Affairs is trying to convince people that there is no prostitution in Kazakhstan so most sex work takes places in saunas, cafes, clubs, private flats or by call. In saunas though, men get drunk and beat up girls and force them to do things they have not agreed upon against their will.

What recourse does a sex worker have in that situation ?

There are some groups you can contact after for medical and social help.
Saunas will tell men who are notoriously dangerous that “All the girls are occupied.”.

Will management of a sauna support a sex worker who is being attacked ?

The security guards will throw him out if he is considered to be “disturbing the order”.

If there is security, why is there so much violence in the saunas?

Some of the girls work for pimps and some work for the police. Before, the police would take [sexual] services and not pay. Now some police pay, and are frequent clients. But when police demand sex, the girls are afraid of the police and don’t know the law. They are afraid if they resist or refuse that he will have the power to put them in jail. So they do it out of fear.

What would you do to make the abuse stop ?

First of all, you should talk about sex work as work. It is the same as a shop owner who sells bread. Or doctors. I am selling a service too. It is work. People don’t go into the hospitals and beat up the doctors for doing their job ! Media should do coverage on discrimination [against us] and develop peoples’ tolerance.

By the way, if a client comes to us, it is to get a sexual service not to beat someone up. If you want to beat someone up, go to boxing.

It could also be great if sex work was legalized. Part of the money could go to the state and there would be no violence. Usually, sex workers are arrested for not having proper documents: registration in the town where we work or live, passports, visas. This way we could have visas or papers to work legally.

Why do the authorities in Kazakhstan want to pretend there is no prostitution ?

It is an issue of national mentality. In Asian countries, it is not appropriate if a woman –never mind sells sex- but even just shows her body before marriage. And the police are lazy enough, so they benefit from being able to live off of us, taking all our money.

Do police treat migrant sex workers differently ?

Migrant sex workers are treated differently. The authorities say they are not contributing to the economy but just being prostitutes. They are taken by the police and held until police find out who they are and where they are from and if there is a problem with documents. I know of 3 cases where sex workers were deported. But it doesn’t always happen. It depends on how she settles the matter…

In terms of ?

Money or sex.

Part 2: 100 Falvours of sex work in Kazakhstan

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