SWAN News interview with Victoriya about the situation of migrant sex workers in Kazakhstan.
What did the girls do?
They came to the drop-in center and they lived there for 3 days in the center. The psychologist spoke with them and we had doctors treat them for free. Not just a gynecological check-up, we also had a surgeon come because they were beaten so heavily, not just raped.
Did they report the case to other authorities?
They didn’t go to the court or the police, because there is no point. The case will be closed, it is of no use. They did not want to live through the humiliation again and see no one cared about what happened.
What has happened to these women?
They went to work in a sauna owned by a police man. Since the owner is a police man, they are relieved, because they are protected from the police now. They are happy now, he is a good owner. The girl gets 70 % and the policeman gets 30%.
Is this an average arrangement?
Most sex workers split their profits 50-50. There are also some migrant girls without documents, who are totally controlled in slavery-like situations, who work only for food. This is a very small percentage, though. It is now more and more popular for sex workers to work independently.
If most women keep most of their profits, why are there some migrant women working in really horrible conditions ?
The situation is that women are coming to work in Kazakhstan, because they have no money or education. So they choose this job. Or, the girls come from the villages maybe for another job, but then they see there is no job market, so they do sex work. The problems come for the girls with fake documents.
If they come with fake documents, the pimps are really not nice to them because they control the situation 100 per cent. If a migrant woman works alone, the police come along and she is deported. If they work with the pimps, the police comes, the pimps pay the police and they let her stay in the country with her fake documents. The independents can also have problems with bad clients, who beat or humiliate them.
So, the girls work with pimps because of this. Many pimps are women, but these pimps, very often treat the women badly. They can force them to work, tell the women they can not reject clients.
The girls from Uzbekistan say that to come to Kazakhstan is very profitable for them. In one month they earn what they would in six months in Uzbekistan, so the risk is worth it to them.
How do women get out of bad conditions ?
Here is one example. There are some local girls, who came from the village to the capital to go do sex work. They looked for a pimp to work for, they found pimps, everything was ok, he gave them money. But then one day, they decided to run away and work independently. That was when their problems started, because they didn’t manage to run away. The pimps caught them and stabbed them. When they recovered, in punishment, he forced them to work for no money at all.
So the girls went to the police on their own. They managed OK with the police and the police intervened, not to help the girls but because the pimps were dealing drugs. The police took the pimps to jail - but not for what they did to the girls, for the drugs. They do not care about the girls, but the drugs… Well, it was the drugs that saved the girls.
So the girls were free and they went to work for another sauna and they are now doing well, working in conditions that are ok. In saunas, it is safer, because it is your space and there are admin staff who run the place. They offer some security because they don’t want the girls to be beaten by bad clients, it is bad for their business too.
Pimps are an issue. But there are other important ones for migrant sex workers, like access to treatment for health issues and trying to obtain legal documents.
What happens to the girls when they are caught by police working with fake documents?
There was a raid recently and 7 girls were deported but one girl was allowed to stay. She said “One police man liked me a lot. Now, I have to have sex with him every Saturday, so I can stay in the country.”
If they are officially deported, they are kept in the police station for 3 days and then deported. It becomes an official government deportation and so, they are generally not humiliated. When a girl is deported, the government pays for a bus. We don’t know what happens on the other side of the border when they get there. In 3 months they can come back again and they do. Many women, manage to come back before the 3 months are up, by paying the police to pass through the border.