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Legislation in the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Sphere of Sex Services

-A short review-

By Vera Sergunina, Women’s Rights Center, SWAN Member from Kazakhstan

Currently, provision of sex services (prostitution) is not illegal in Kazakhstan, but at the same time there is no official definition of the status of commercial sex workers and no legal regulations of this sphere. The phenomenon exists, and the government admits this fact, but instead of an adequate recognition of commercial sex work and its legalization with all the consequences (taxation, human rights protection, etc.) the state continues to refer to it as an “antisocial behavior”. In spite of the fact that sex work is not prosecuted, the commercial sex workers (both females and males) are outlawed, which justifies the violation of their rights by customers, people in control of their business, as well as the police officers.

The Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan presupposes criminal responsibility for soliciting through coercion or threat of violence, taking advantage of dependences, blackmail, destruction or damage of property, and for organization or running brothels for prostitution purposes, as well as pimping for commercial gain.
According to the official statistics, in 2004 there were 357 registered crimes associated with pimping and organization and keeping of brothels for prostitution.
After Kazakhstan ratified the Convention against Trafficking in People and Prostitution Exploitation by the Third Party, the criminal laws were amended to respond to human trafficking. For instance, criminal responsibility for kidnapping with the purpose of exploitation was included into the code; for illegal deprivation of liberty the purpose of exploitation of the imprisoned; for selling/purchasing or performance of any other deals regarding the person as well as exploitation or recruitment, transportation, delivery, concealment and performance of other exploitation-related activities.

Exploitation of person, in this case, is understood as making use of forced labor, forcing another person into prostitution or other services with the aim to benefit from the other person’s income; also acting as a proprietor of the person, who for the reasons independent of his/her will, is not able to refuse to fulfill the work or service.

No doubt that these amendments were timely and necessary, but practice reveals the existence of numerous cases of law-enforcing officials’ violations.
Despite the fact that sex workers were left out of the labor legislation, the state from time to time turns its attention to this group of population mostly in connection to HIV/AIDS issues through various regional programs on healthy lifestyle or response to AIDS epidemic. Such documents often provide statistics on commercial sex workers working in this or that city, acknowledge the fact that such services and the demand for it exist, mention the problems and women’s rights violation connected with lack of protection as well as the high risk of sex work, when faced with violence and threat of infections.
Nevertheless, the question of legalization of prostitution and the provision of legal status for commercial sex workers has not yet been put forward by the authorities in Kazakhstan.
Contact person: Vera Sergunina, Women’s Rights Center, Kazakhstan
Email: vsergunina@mail.ru