Sex Workers Targeted in Tajikistan

Amnesty International has drawn attention to violent police harassment of sex workers in Tajikistan.  In a press release issued on 13th June 2014 Amnesty describes the arrest, abuse and harassment of sex workers in Tajikistan as part of the government’s “morality” campaign.  According to the press release 500 sex workers have been arrested in the country since the 6th June 2014.  Men suspected of ‘homosexual behaviour’ have also been targeted in this repressive campaign.  Of the 500 people arrested reports suggest that about 30 people have been fined although it is not known what offences they are alleged to have committed.

In the latest raid, which took place on 10th June around 70 people were detained.  Reports suggest that officers beat people during the round-ups and while in detention the detainees were subjected to further abuse and harassment.  Amnesty received reports from detainees who reported being subject to forced testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  Women that were suspected of being sex workers were also subject to forced smear tests.  Forced medical procedures of this sort are an outrageous violation of a person’s right to privacy and bodily integrity.  Even more distressing were the reports received of rape and sexual humiliation of detainees with police officers demanding sex in exchange for release.

Most of those detained in this latest round-up were released without charge within 36 hours but reports received by Amnesty suggest that around 30 detainees may still be detained and their fate is unknown.

The police allege that this violent crackdown is because they have been “inundated” with complaints from citizens.  A police spokesman said:

"Recently we have received a lot of complaints from people about this immoral phenomenon.  In the evening and night-time prostitutes would freely stand by the roadside unashamed, drawing everyone's attention."

Amnesty argues that this position taken by the police is nothing more than an excuse to justify the abuse and discrimination of sex workers and others suspected of ‘moral crimes’.  Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, said:

“These midnight raids, disguised as a campaign to ensure public morality, are in truth an exercise in discrimination and ill-treatment,” “Reports of police beatings, threats, sexual violence and invasive forced medical procedures suggest the Ministry of Internal Affairs needs to address the abuses allegedly meted out by officers as a matter of urgency.” 

NSWP demands that the government of Tajikistan immediately ceases this campaign of brutal harassment and violence against sex workers.