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Author: Olga Ochneva, Kyrgyzstan. For almost a year and a half, law enforcement agencies have been persecuting sex workers in Kyrgyzstan. During this period, the number of sex workers receiving HIV prevention services in some regions of the country reduced twice. Shah-Aiym documents such cases with the support of Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan and street lawyers of public associations all over Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the Global Fund via Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan.
Most often, those are cases of extortion, arbitrary detention, threats, blackmailing, pressure and degrading treatment. In Kyrgyzstan, sex work is decriminalized, which means that it is neither an administrative nor a criminal offense. To punish sex workers, law enforcers use other provisions of the Administrative Offences Code. Most often, sex workers are detained for alleged disorderly conduct or petty crimes.
There are some cases when law enforcers know what a girl does to earn her living and start blackmailing her. Those who have bad luck or are not able to buy off may be arrested for three to five days.
According to Alina, many sex workers have gone underground: they often change their rented apartments and phone numbers. Such situation in some regions of the country hinders the access of NGOs to sex workers to conduct HIV prevention interventions: distribute condoms, offer testing, conduct awareness-raising activities, and consultations. Mass raids of echoed almost in every region of the country. As the end of approached, things calmed down: sex workers got used to the new conditions, while the pressure from the side of police weakened a bit and the mass raids ended.
Despite the fact that civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan offer legal support, sex workers rarely report their offenders. At the same time, the sex workers movement is growing and becoming stronger.