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IWPR Tajikistan: Clampdown on Sex Industry in Tajikistan

Fewer jobs and a worsening exchange rate hits households supported by expats in Russia.A new law setting out tougher penalties for sex workers in Tajikistan is unlikely to curb the industry, as its roots lie in endemic poverty and unemployment.

The Central Asian country’s parliament has passed legal amendments doubling the fine for soliciting to the equivalent of 240 US dollars, or a 15 days’ house arrest. Most significantly, every charge will be taken to court.

These penalties seem unlikely to curb the number of sex workers, or deter others from becoming involved. Sex workers in the capital Dushanbe say they only earn about five dollars a day, but they cannot find other ways of earning this small income and are often trapped by their circumstances.

“My father died, and my mother went off to work in Russia. I divorced my husband, and my brother made me leave the house,” said Sitora, 28. “I’ve been doing this since 2005. Some men treat us badly – they pay 40 or 50 somoni, take us outside the city, beat us up and take the money back.”

Investigative reporter Muhayo Nozimova believes that instead of punitive measures, job creation and better education provision are the only ways of breaking the cycle of female poverty and exploitation.

Mehrangez Tursunzoda is an IWPR-trained radio journalist in Tajikistan.

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union, and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.