09ASTANA593, KAZAKHSTAN: LEGALIZED PROSTITUTION — TO BE OR NOT TO BE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA593 2009-04-03 12:08 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO8838
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0593/01 0931208
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031208Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5096
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1450
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0828
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1531
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0515
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1013
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0926
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1386

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ASTANA 000593 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR INL/AAE, G/TIP, SCA/CEN (O'MARA) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI KCRM KTIP KWMN KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LEGALIZED PROSTITUTION -- TO BE OR NOT TO BE 
 
REF: ASTANA 0187 
 
ASTANA 00000593  001.2 OF 004 
 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  Kazakhstan has struggled for years with the question 
of prostitution.   Though not legalized, prostitution is not 
technically illegal and this legal grey zone has enabled the country 
to deflect difficult questions.  In a recent, public appeal to the 
government, Rosa Petraus, Chairwoman of the Tirlik disability rights 
group, called for the legalization of prostitution (reftel).  Though 
her goal was to provide the disabled with equal access to commercial 
sex services, she provoked public discussion of deeper issues 
surrounding prostitution.  Not surprisingly, opinions about this 
issue in Kazakhstani society have been passionate and quite divided. 
 END SUMMARY. 
 
LEGAL BACKGROUND 
 
2.   In Kazakhstan, prostitution and solicitation of prostitution 
are not specifically prohibited by law. However, all activities 
surrounding prostitution, especially those connected to organized 
crime, are illegal and punishable by law.  For example, facilitation 
of prostitution and recruitment of an individual into prostitution 
are considered human trafficking crimes and punishable by up to 
seven years in prison.  The establishment or management of a brothel 
and pimping are punishable by up to five years in prison. 
Prostitutes found during raids on brothels or otherwise discovered 
are registered by the police.  (NOTE:  Police have told Post 
unofficially that this is because the women are at a higher risk of 
being victims of violent crime or of going missing.  Police also 
find prostitutes to be good sources of information and use the 
registration as a "phone book" for confidential informants.  END 
NOTE.) 
 
3.  Police regularly conduct operations to uncover those 
facilitating prostitution, working as pimps, or managing brothels, 
by checking saunas, hotels, night clubs, and travel agencies.  As a 
result of these operations, police initiated 12 criminal cases for 
recruitment and about 250 cases of managing brothels and pimping in 
2008.  During the same period, approximately 150 prostitutes were 
registered by police. 
 
PROSTITUTES AND PIMPS REACT 
 
4.  The January 23 issue of the newspaper "Karavan" reported that 
prostitutes would welcome the opportunity to work legally, pay 
taxes, make pension contributions, and receive medical treatment in 
exchange for government protection.  According to those interviewed, 
the legalization of prostitution would ensure their safety, which is 
the biggest issue for those in this dangerous profession.  They 
believe that it is no secret that prostitution is the most 
criminalized and dangerous business in Kazakhstan.  Often, they 
said, prostitutes are involved in other crimes and many are robbed, 
beaten, or even killed by clients. 
 
5.  According to recent reports in the national press, prostitutes 
in Karaganda responded to Petraus's appeal by offering a 90 percent 
discount to disabled customers.  Pimps and brothel owners were less 
understanding.  One called Petraus twice offering her a job in his 
brothel.  He explained that because she is wheelchair-bound, she 
would be considered exotic and his wealthier clients would pay a 
premium.  Petraus also received serious offers from those seeking to 
help the disabled; a businessman from London offered to arrange and 
fund a study-tour for her to learn how the disabled in Britain live. 
 
 
NGO ASSOCIATION IS STRONGLY AGAINST LEGALIZATION... 
 
6.  The Association against Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia 
(ATIPCA), an umbrella group of 14 NGOs, met to discuss this issue 
the week of January 26.  Thirteen of the 14 NGO leaders voted 
against legalized prostitution and one abstained. 
 
7.  According to Yekaterina Badikova, president of ATIPCA and a 
former Kazakhstani police officer, 90 percent of prostitutes say 
that they work in brothels against their will.  She explained that 
all brothels, without exception, use physical and psychological 
violence, threats of violence, and fraud to make prostitutes work. 
"Prostitution is a very dirty business," she said, adding that pimps 
have a direct economic interest in expanding their networks and are 
 
ASTANA 00000593  002.2 OF 004 
 
 
willing to use any and all methods to keep their "employees" 
working. 
 
8.  She also explained that it is very difficul
t to tell when a 
woman consents to work as a prostitute and when she is forced.  The 
NGOs agreed that many women choose to become prostitutes 
voluntarily, but that once they get into the business, the system 
leaves them no choice but to continue to work.  They find themselves 
under the complete control of other people and have to obey the 
rules under the constant threat of violence.  The NGOs consider all 
prostitutes to be victims of organized crime and in need of 
protection from the government. 
 
9.  The links between prostitution and other criminal businesses 
such as money laundering, human trafficking, and drug trafficking 
are strong.  In that sense, legalizing prostitution would be similar 
to legalizing human trafficking or drug trafficking.  The NGOs 
strongly believe that forcing people into prostitution, keeping 
brothels, and pimping must not become legal.  They see these 
activities not as businesses, but as crimes that take away the 
freedoms and rights of people and facilitate slavery.  The NGOs will 
strongly oppose any legalization initiatives. 
 
... BUT SOME VOICES ARE IN FAVOR 
 
10.  In the January 23 issue of "Karavan," the president of the 
Association of Businesswomen, Raushan Sarsenbayeva, said she 
believes that prostitution should be legalized.  She said that 
people have been trying to eliminate prostitution for 5,000 years, 
but no country has yet succeeded.  She noted that commercial sex has 
become an illegal business along with narco-trafficking and weapons 
smuggling, which are very profitable.  To fight such crime, she 
said, prostitution must be moved out of the shadows.  She suggested 
that such a measure would help to protect both prostitutes and 
clients.  However, Sarsenbayeva did not deny that legalization could 
have a negative effect on the image of Kazakhstan.  Nevertheless, 
she said, "legalization would have more positive consequences than 
negative." 
 
11. "Karavan" also reported on January 23 that the Executive 
Director of the Charter for Human Rights, Zhemis Turmagambetova, is 
likewise an advocate of legalized prostitution.  "I am not trying to 
defend this phenomenon, as it is immoral by its nature," she said, 
"but let's not pretend that it does not exist.  We do not need to 
re-invent the wheel, but we should simply learn from Tsarist Russia 
or some European countries where the inhabitants of red-light 
districts officially work, pay taxes and are protected by the law." 
(NOTE:  The Charter for Human Rights is one of the leading 
Kazakhstani human rights NGOs, although Turmagambetova herself is 
known for her somewhat unorthodox views.  END NOTE.) 
 
ASK THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT 
 
12.  According to local press reports, a member of the Almaty 
Maslikhat (city council), Ablaikhan Samatdin, is strongly against 
the legalization of prostitution.  He stated that the legalization 
of prostitution would offend the moral sensibilities of those who 
follow religious traditions.  He said he is convinced that 
prostitution "never existed" in Kazakhstan previously, and he does 
not understand why it exists now.  (NOTE:  There is well-documented 
historical evidence confirming that brothels existed thousands of 
years ago along the Silk Road which crossed what is now the 
territory of Kazakhstan.  END NOTE.)  Samatdin pointed out that the 
unemployment rate is relatively low in Kazakhstan compared to its 
neighbors and came to the conclusion that there are no economic 
reasons for modern prostitution, but only social, i.e., "lazy young 
women are unwilling to study and work hard." 
 
13.  Samatdin also believes that law enforcement is ineffective.  He 
said that when the police cleared prostitutes off Sain Street in 
Almaty, they simply moved to Seifullin Street or to rented 
apartments.  (COMMENT:  Seifullin Street is now so infamous that an 
Embassy employee was advised never to attempt to flag a cab on the 
street, because she would be mistaken for a prostitute.  END 
COMMENT.)  He suggested adding a question asking about legalization 
to the census questionnaire.  (NOTE:  The census, which ended in 
February, did not include such a question.  END NOTE.) 
 
 
ASTANA 00000593  003.2 OF 004 
 
 
OPINION POLL RESULTS 
 
14.  On March 9, a local newspaper published the results of a public 
opinion poll on the government's efforts to combat prostitution and 
prostitution-related crimes.  A majority of respondents were in 
favor of legalization, with many saying that if the problem cannot 
be eliminated, it must be regulated.  Other arguments in favor of 
legalization included concern for prostitutes' and their clients' 
health and safety and the economic benefits and income for the 
government.  Some respondents pointed out that prostitution has 
historical roots in Kazakhstan -- bigamy, harems, and concubines can 
be considered forms of legal prostitution -- while others disagreed 
and believe that prostitution is a very "young profession." 
 
15.  Citizens of all 16 regions of Kazakhstan were interviewed to 
evaluate the efforts of each to combat prostitution on a five-point 
scale.  Only four regions scored three points or higher:  West 
Kazakhstan (Uralsk), East Kazakshtan (Ust-Kamenogorsk), Kyzlorda, 
and Almaty.  Astana was rated seventh and the worst oblast was 
Dzhambul in southern Kazakhstan, which received a score of 1.92. 
(NOTE.  The capital of the oblast, the 2,000-year old Taraz, was a 
stop along the Silk Road and is now well-known for its organized 
criminal activity and narco-trafficking.  END NOTE.)  Respondents 
said that the police cannot effectively fight prostitution because 
it is not criminalized and the government is doing nothing to reduce 
demand. 
 
16.  In a poll published by Express-K on January 30, respondents 
said that the priority must be strengthening the punishment for 
pimps, brothel owners, and customers.  Respondents expressed 
frustration with the fact that people who use sexual services are 
not punished, despite the fact they create the demand.  They also 
called for customers to be publicly named and shamed in local media 
before going to jail. 
 
ON-LINE "BROTHELS" 
 
17.  For some time now, Almaty has been awash in graffiti 
advertising an escort website called Almatinki ("Almaty girls"). 
The site is run by a company that also operates sites for female 
escorts in Astana, Prague, and Berlin, and for male escorts in 
Moscow.  The company seems to have a grand vision for the future, 
with domain names reserved for services in Karaganda and several 
cities in Russia and Germany.  The Almaty and Astana sites provide 
detailed instructions for prostitutes to place advertisements.  An 
advertiser must have a residency permit for the city in which they 
are advertising, and applications are accepted only from women 18 
and older, who must provide photographs.  A $50 registration fee 
paid through an online money-transfer system is required to
run the 
ad for three months.  To activate a profile, an applicant must call 
a telephone number given on the site in order to receive further 
instructions. 
 
18.  The sites provide photos, hourly rates, activities each woman 
would be willing to participate in, and a contact number.  Though 
the instructions direct advertisers to provide non-explicit photos, 
many of the photos purportedly range from mildly to very explicit. 
The Astana site is much smaller than Almaty; where Almaty has 
approximately 150 advertisers, Astana has no more than 30. 
 
19.  According to the Deputy Minister of Interior, who oversees the 
K-Department (cyber crime division), police have been investigating 
the site, but are unable to shut it down because it is hosted in the 
Czech Republic.  The owner of the site was born in Kazakhstan, but 
is a naturalized Czech citizen.  Under Czech law, his site is legal 
because it is registered for advertisement purposes and, since all 
profiles are posted voluntarily, he cannot be charged for pimping. 
 
REAL BROTHELS IN THE CENTER OF ALMATY 
 
20.  On January 23, "Karavan" ran an interview with a former 
prostitute who complained that the police shut down only small 
prostitution rings and brothels while ignoring the large, well-known 
brothels.  She said that one of the most popular night clubs in 
Almaty employs 30 prostitutes and charges each woman a $700 monthly 
in fees.  The women are required to charge $200 an hour or more and 
make their clients order food and drinks from the bar.  The club is 
said to be well-known among expatriates and pays the western hotels 
 
ASTANA 00000593  004.2 OF 004 
 
 
to recommend the club to their guests. 
 
21.  The second brothel, according to the former prostitute, is a 
very well-known hotel in Almaty.  Hotel security selects 15 to 20 
women to work in the hotel from 9 pm to 5 am every day.  The women 
charge $300-$500 an hour and pay 50% to the "house."  Women are not 
allowed to leave the hotel during their working hours and must pay a 
$100 per hour penalty if they do. 
 
22.  Embassy officers have observed prostitutes openly soliciting 
clients in the bar at one of the large western hotels in Almaty. 
The same few prostitutes regularly work from the bar, charging $300 
an hour, with a 10% cut going to the hotel management. 
 
FINANCIAL CRISIS HITS THE SEX INDUSTRY 
 
23.  According to a local press report, every week, specialists from 
the government's HIV Center in Astana visit locations frequented by 
prostitutes to speak to them about the risks of HIV/AIDS and discuss 
preventative measures.  According to their anecdotal evidence, there 
has been a significant drop in the number of prostitutes working in 
Astana.  In October 2008, they found 240 prostitutes, but only 75 in 
December.  A month later the number dropped to 47.  The women 
explained that due to the financial crisis, many prostitutes have 
lost their regular clients and have returned to their home villages 
and countries.  An HIV Center epidemiologist estimates that prices 
charged by prostitutes in Astana have dropped as much as 40 percent 
in the last three months. 
 
24.  COMMENT:  Prostitution is a divisive issue and no concrete 
decision on legalization is likely to be made by the government in 
the near future.  As many countries have found, there are no easy 
answers.   Both criminalization and legalization come with serious 
costs to the criminal justice system, health care system, and 
society.  END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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