Uzbekistan: Police Reportedly Regulating Sex Market
In April, officials in Uzbekistan announced a high-profile, nationwide crackdown on prostitution. According to local news reports, prostitution has been growing unchecked throughout the country in recent years. But Fergana News says officials’ efforts to stem the supply of sex workers may be more about price control than altruism.
As part of the government’s campaign, state television broadcast a documentary including footage of alleged prostitutes confessing and grainy shots of a hotel room with American dollars fanned out on the table. While the documentary intended to show how police are enforcing laws against prostitution and sex trafficking, a retired Tashkent police officer says the depiction is nonsense, telling Fergana that controlling prostitution is simply in some cops’ economic interests:
For many it isn’t a secret that senior police officers and regular policemen often control and regulate sold women, this ‘good’ on the market. Of course the proponents of this undercover business obviously are not happy with a sharp increase in [the availability of] sex-work services. A campaign against prostitution would decrease the supply and restore control of this specific market [to the police].
In interviews conducted by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in 2005, sex workers in Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley claimed they paid a monthly fee to local police for protection. In addition, some said they were contracted by police to help fell high-ranking politicians and businessmen by entrapping them in sex scandals.
Though the government continues to pump out rosy economic statistics, Uzbekistan’s ailing economy and burdensome regulations appear to be driving some women into the work.
While the Uzbek government routinely advertises initiatives promising to provide for women and children, a 2010 budget report shows instead that the government has shifted fiscal responsibility for reproductive care onto private companies. The regulations state that starting in 2010, the Uzbek government no longer paid for female workers’ maternity leave. Instead the burden of payment now falls on a woman’s employer. Fergana asserts that many companies no longer hire young and middle-aged women, fearing they will have to shoulder the cost of maternity leave.
So while Uzbek officials make a public morality show, behind the scenes they preside over a more sordid affair in more ways than one.