Taming Bishkek’s Sex Trade

by Nathan Hamm on 1/10/2005

Prostitution is on the rise in Bishkek, and officials are trying to decide between legalization or outlawing the sex trade. The argument for legalization is exactly what one would expect. Registering and regulation of prostitution makes it easier for police to keep tabs on prostitutes, provide health services, collect taxes, etc. And therein lies the problem for those who ply the trade.

Some prostitutes argue that legalization, in fact, will only allow police and public officials to make use of their services for free. “The state is unlikely to evaluate our work at our worth,” said one procurer who gave her name as Jyldyz-eje. “They can’t even provide war veterans with decent pensions, and what about us? They’d better catch real criminals and leave us alone.”

Others object to the prospect of seeing their profession made public. “I don’t want to be called a prostitute officially,” said one 23-year-old sex worker who gave her name as Gulnara. “I don’t want everybody to know what I do. Let everything stay as it is.”


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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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