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HUNGARY: Prostitutes in danger

We have recently published an article, detailing participation of SZEXE, Hungarian Association of sex workers, in CEDAW hearings. Even though the fact and the conclusions reached by the Committee did not become the center of attention back home, some of the Hungarian media decided to engage into conversation. Below is an article from the communist newspaper Nepszava reporting on SZEXE and CEDAW shadow report.


2013. may 28., 05:15

The Government is not allocating funds for programs which would help local sex workers find other means of subsistence. This among others was the reason why the country was recently reprimanded by the competent CEDAW Committee. According to the experts, girls cannot work safely in Hungary nowadays and in many cases their health rights are also being compromised.

Hungary has recently got criticized by the CEDAW, a body dealing with the issues of female discrimination, for not having had secured safe working conditions for prostitutes. Even though the law has made it possible to offer sexual services for money since 1999, the Committee has ruled that the majority of the 15 thousands of local sex workers are being constantly discriminated against. The Committee has reached its conclusions based on the shadow report prepared by the Hungarian Association for the Protection of the Interests of Sex Workers (SZEXE).

“The most important problem which in turn triggers all the other problems is that local governments do not delineate tolerance zones. This way the girls are forced to work in such dark and abandoned places that their lives are in constant danger”. – Agnes Foldi told our newspaper. The head of SZEXE believes that we would need a new law, because the existing regulations have not been able to force a single local government to do something. Foldi has reminded us that according to the law on organized crime “In case of mass prostitution the local government can issue an administrative regulation designating a tolerance zone”. “But what do they consider “mass prostitution” ?” the head of the Association asks rhetorically, adding that there was a mayor, who said that he will consider prostitution “massive” if out of 200 000 inhabitants 200 001 will be sex workers.

“If there are no tolerance zones, the police fine the girls working in the streets; after some time the girls are already unable to pay the total sum of the fine which can amount up to a million forints and escape abroad where they might also be trapped by traffickers” -- Foldi outlines the logical order of the problem, pointing out that another grave source of danger is that the majority of girls do not speak any foreign language. “This way they are unable to ask for help even if they are kept as slaves in a bar without money or documents”. – adds the head of the Association.

According to the SEXE’s shadow report, the street sex workers are those who are in the biggest danger, confronted by the pressure of police fines. Frequently they are accused of crimes and misdemeanors they have not even committed, for example littering. The report cites an example of a sex worker who was fined at least 80 times in a half year for a sum total of four million forints. “Girls who work in the area around Tatabanya told us that they used to be fined twice every day; one police officer would come in the morning, and another in the afternoon and in each case they would fine them for 10 thousand forints” -- recalls a blatant case the head of Association, adding that in many cases the girls had to pay with their bodies. We should also add that an average fine will be much higher, amounting to 50, 80 or even 150 thousand forints.

This way we would need not only new law and clear regulations, but also more money. According to the CEDAW Committee, a sex worker currently does not have any chance to start life afresh, there are no trainings or other subsidized programs that would make it possible to look for a different source of income. The head of the SZEXE reports: “Last time we got 21 million forint to teach 15 girls a profession demanded at the labor market in 2006. Since then we have not received any support.”

Since the government has not been supporting the publishing of information materials for the past three years, there would be a great need in take away materials on safe sex, HIV/AIDS, rights and obligations of sex workers. “Next to it less and less money is given for free condoms, even though lots of people turn to us for rubber. We cannot treat the issue of safe sex too lightly, since it is not only the health of the sex workers we are talking about, but the health of the clients and their current and future partners” – were the concluding remarks of Foldi.
F-Cs. J. / Népszava