Amelia NGO in Kazakhstan Publish Report on Sex Work

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european Regional Correspondent

A research project on human rights abuses experienced by sex workers was conducted by “Amelia” NGO and released on the 5 of November, 2015. The project was financially supported by SWAN and the Robert Carr Foundation.

Amelia NGO was founded in 2012 and focuses on:

  1. Helping the general population be informed and offer services.
  2. Provide psychological, educational and social assistance to individuals in crisis situations (victims of violence, substance abuse cases, children staying in restricted or specialized institutions).
  3. Improve access to prevention programmes by vulnerable youth.

The report is focuses on sex work, violence and HIV infections in the Republic of Kazakhstan. It uses data collected from the city of Taldykorgan and the region of Almaty. The report explores the daily violence perpetrated by the police and clients. It also clearly linkes violence with increased vulnerability to HIV and other STIs.

Sex work was decriminalised in Kazakhstan in 2001, including the decriminalisation of sex workers and clients. As of January 2014, the estimated number of sex workers was 19,606, which is 0.11% of the country’s population. It is officially estimated that “only” 28 sex workers are HIV positive, however public data suggests that number being over 100.

The report shows that sex workers experience violence, mandatory HIV testing, arrest, blackmail, coercion, sexual assault, and extortion. Even though sex work is decriminalised, the report identifies continued police intervention and raids. Sex workers are forced to pay fines for crimes that are non-existent. Furthermore, sex workers fear they will be publically identified by the police or health officials as sex workers or drug users, which prevents them from accessing services.

In 2012, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria stopped financing prevention programmes for sex workers, which led to an increase in STI including HIV. State financing remained limited to syringes, condoms and lubricants; however, the quality and quantity of support is not meeting the needs of the community. Since sex workers are not part of the Country Coordinating Mechanisms, they cannot voice their concerns to lawmakers.

There remains a need to remove discriminatory laws and policies that make people feel that crimes against sex workers will go unpunished. There is a need for a stigma-free and non-discriminatory environment, where sex worker-led  organisations can openly exist, participate in law-making processes as well as access critical preventive and health services equal to that of other interest groups. 

The report concludes:

  1. There is a lack of strategic mechanisms to collect and analyze HIV/AIDS related information to drive policy decisions.
  2. There is a lack of specialised programmes for HIV prevention.
  3. There is a lack of public awareness of the issues facing sex workers and people who use drugs.
  4. Lack of a laws preventing discrimination against sex workers and LGBT people.
  5. Lack of education programmes for sex workers.

Recommendations include training the staff in health organisations on rights-based HIV programming, training police officers on legal and health issues, increased budget and funding for training and prevention programmes, and civil society participation in the legislative and prevention programme development work.