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The sex trade is booming in Bishkek, and authorities are struggling to respond. Prostitution is not a crime in Kyrgyzstan, and with no legal measures in place to regulate the industry, overburdened Bishkek police are proposing to either legalize prostitution or, alternatively, outlaw it once and for all.
Bishkek police claim that some 3, prostitutes work in Kyrgyzstan's capital, while unofficial estimates put that number at 1. Officials claim that sex workers from neighboring countries account for the vast majority of the number, with Kyrgyzstani prostitutes making up a mere 2 to 3 percent of the total. In addition, the capital offers some saunas, hotels and more than 1, private apartments with sexual services, police say.
Prostitution is not a crime in Kyrgyzstan, and prostitutes say that popular attitudes toward their work are more understanding than in neighboring Uzbekistan. But that welcome has its limits. Violent crimes involving prostitutes such as murders or assaults are on the increase. With less than adequate control over migration streams into Kyrgyzstan, police fear that cycle of violence could only worsen.
To fight back, some city officials are suggesting a solution that at first glance would seem radically at odds with Kyrgyzstan's conservative culture: legalization of prostitution. With legalization, clients would shy away from brothels whose activities were on the public record, and medical services could be more easily provided to sex workers, Tyablin forecast. We live in the East. In a country where sex education textbooks were recalled in as a demoralizing influence, the legalization battle will face an uphill struggle.
Observers doubt that legislators would even broach the topic in public. Instead, an alternative solution might prove more attractive: Bishkek police chiefs want legislators to stiffen legislation governing the sex trade, and introduce criminal liabilities for prostitution, pimping or the management of hotels and saunas providing sexual services. Under this initiative, clients would also be subject to prosecution.