3 june 2020

Central Asia news

Uzbek women account for one third of all hookers in the Kyrgyz city of Osh

24.07.2006 14:17 msk

Alla Pyatobratova (Osh)

Ferghana Valley

Slave-trade. The term is usually associated with some distant exotic country where people are sold to plantations, construction sites, or bordellos. In the meantime, some countries of the Commonwealth are not exactly unacquainted with this phenomenon nowadays, and Kyrgyzstan is one of them.

Take a stroll in Osh in the evening. You will inevitably see groups of young women near cafes and stores. There are lots of "locations" in Osh where women are available - they include saunas, hotels, and hostels. Women are even delivered to clients' own apartments.

Prostitution is known as sex-industry. It is, however, a business venture only for whoever is selling women. As far as the women themselves are concerned, this is nothing short of slavery. The roads leading to this position differ only in trivialities. Young girls are usually lured with the promises of a job (seamstresses or waitresses) and a handsome salary. The girls agree, and that is that.

According to Osh-based Public Foundation Friend, almost 1,000 girls aged 16 and more offer sexual services to the willing in the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan. Almost 30% of them are residents of the border districts of Uzbekistan who come to Osh in search of jobs. Not one of the girls this correspondent approached said she had wanted to become a hooker on coming here. And yet, they became hookers before they knew what was happening.

Watched over by mamas, the girls stick to fixed "locations". Few of them are free-lancers, practically all belong to a pimp or, more frequently, a mama.

At first sight, foreigners do not really differ from the locals. And yet, they do. They are foreigners in Kyrgyzstan, and it makes things that more difficult for them. Uzbek girls are more timid and introverted, drawing them out is not easy at all.

It is usually Uzbek girls with nobody left in their native country who agree to go to Osh. One of the girls told Ferghana.Ru that when her mother had died, the father took another woman and chucked the daughter out. The girl found no jobs in her native Andijan and accepted the offer of a job in Osh where girls made more than they could hope to make in Andijan (even though not nearly well enough by Kyrgyz standards).

The girl came to Osh and found herself confronting a mama. It did not take long for the latter to persuade the girl to turn over her passport and "try" to see if she might actually like it. Left without any other option, the girl gave her consent.

The story is typical. Girls are restricted to cramped apartments. mamas feed hem and buy them clothes, plus cigarettes and booze whenever necessary. Girls are not given any money, though. First, they are supposed to repay their mamas' kindness.

Mamas know how to put their charges in debt. A great deal of hookers get detained in the course of police raids, and mamas buy their freedom again. Girls are never detained for prostitution which is not banned in Kyrgyzstan. They are usually bagged for some minor administrative violation - say, for the inability to produce papers on demand. Mama pays 1,000 soms (an approximately equivalent of $25) for a girl and tells her she paid 5,000 soms and that she owes her now. This is it, the girl is on a hook. She will remain there for as long as she is in demand and therefore earns her mama money. Or until mama decides to give her a boot for some reason. This latter never happens when the girl is pretty and the locals keep paying for her services.

"It is usually wardens of detention centers that give us a call when girls end up there for minor violations," said Alisher Mamajanov of Golden Goal, an association one of whose projects aims to do away with or at least minimize slave-trade. "They all are without IDs or papers, you know. We do help the local girls to restore their passport if they ask, but we cannot help girls from Uzbekistan. They are foreigners. These latter turn up battered all too frequently, because their pimps abuse and mistreat them. Whoever admits that she has reasons to fear for her life is forwarded to a special shelter. Few of these girls want to go home, particularly the ones with families back there. Girls usually lack an education to speak of, and they are afraid of their folks. Should the latter discover what they have been doing abroad, they'll damn them and cast them out. In fact, someone always turns up to tell the parents - girls' own friends do. When it happens, girls no longer dare meet with their parents again. Neither can they hope to marry anyone..."

Free-lancers also happen to visit Public Foundation Friend, the girls who have passports and do not work for anyone but themselves. They are few. They turn up for condoms and certificate for free medical treatment. A local surgeon told Ferghana.Ru off the record that young women are frequently operated on and cannot bear children after that. According to the surgeon, doctors always know at a glance who they deal with. They can tell by the degree of advancement of venereal diseases. The condition is usually appalling. Instead of applying for treatment, girls keep their usual working hours. Not all of them bother to insist on the use of condoms. Their mamas do not give a damn. Why bother when they can always find replacements?

Girls hope to save enough money to become free again and abandon sex-industry but this latter is a mire that never lets anyone out. That goes for the locals and for foreigners. The mire breaks people's psyche and lives. Only a handful break free again.

Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts is the American dream that misled a lot of naive girls. The Russian movie Intergirl is much closer to the truth. Even it, however, is not as appalling as the reality.