PROSTITUTION IN LITHUANIA
|LEGAL STATUS OF PROSTITUTION|
In Lithuania prostitution is illegal. At the moment it is not a criminal but an administrative offence subject to a fine - Article 182 (1) of the Code of Violations of Administrative Law. Pandering is criminalized and punishable by a deprivation of liberty from three to five years or fine - part 3 of Article 239 of the Lithuanian Criminal Code; forcing to engage into prostitution of juveniles, materially dependant persons and persons dependant due to held posts as well as involvement into prostitution by way of blackmail/deceit/use of psychological or physical pressure is punishable by a deprivation of liberty ranging from three to seven years. In recent years there have been less than 20 pandering cases per year (the number of administrative cases for prostitution varies greatly).
Prostitution as an administrative offence could be considered in case a prostitute is older than 16 years and of sound mind. In fact, a lot of underage girls are engaged into sex trade, however, till they are younger as 16, no means of legal persecution are applied.
Direct ban of prostitution imposed by the Code of Violations of Administrative Law of Lithuania is inexpedient because of two reasons:
it prompts the women to look for a job abroad; they usually come back or are deported with improved experience of masking from state control, which they take over from abroad working colleagues, and infected with STD.
Women loose any right for social and other protection from pimps’ and clients’ aggression, which often occurs in their practices.
Trafficking is also illegal in Lithuania. Already in July 1998 the Criminal Code was amended to cover trafficking, defined as the selling of a person or any other alienation or acquisition of a person with the purpose to abuse him/her sexually, to force to engage in prostitution or to receive any material or personal gain, as well as trafficking in persons from/to Lithuania for the purpose of prostitution (Article 131, part 3).
Under Lithuanian law trafficking is punishable by deprivation of liberty from four up to eight years. If trafficking is committed against a juvenile, as repeated action, in conspiracy or by a recidivist it is subject to a more severe penalty, a deprivation of liberty from six up to twelve years. Also the new Criminal Code of Lithuania, which adopted in September 2000 and which entered into force in 2001, cover trafficking and, significantly, do not limit the crime to sexual exploitation or forcing to engage in prostitution. It provides for a punishment between three months and eight years.
In Lithuania there were three registered cases of trafficking in 1999 and four in 2000 (handled by the police department). To date only one case of trafficking has made it to court and is currently pending.
Lots of women are trafficked annually to the Western countries from Lithuania since it is also a transit country for women from Russia. There is no data on how many Lithuanians are involved into sex trade abroad. In 1999 1928 people came back to Lithuania, in 2000 - almost twice as much - 3498 persons. Trafficking is organised by criminal international groups that are professionals in this field, promptly acting to any market changes.
By report to International Organization of Migration “Trafficking in women in Lithuania: magnitude, mechanism and actors” (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) in Lithuania the liability of legal persons for trafficking (either criminally or administratively) is not provided for. There are both objective and subjective reasons for that. Cases are tried for very long in a court because the victims usually stay abroad and correspondence with foreign legislative institutions last very long, so does interrogation of witnesses.
Lithuanian has concluded several agreements with its neighbours on legal assistance and legal relations in criminal matters; there are also inter-institutional agreements in certain fields. Though, Lithuania has not signed such the agreements with all the countries (e.g., Germany).
In Lithuania liaison officers play an important role in international police cooperation and exchange of information (Lithuania has appointed liaison officer sin Belgium and in Belarus and intends to appoint more). Lithuanian also has joint activities with Latvian Police officers. In Lithuania there exists a unified computerised data system on e.g. missing persons but no specific database to collect and maintain information relevant to trafficking.
However, it is to admit that, presently, collaboration with Western organisations dealing with human trafficking prevention and rehabilitation is rather poor, no mutual concept on work in this field exists, and there is also a lack of HIV projects targeted at sex workers - especially male.
Lithuanian authorities have recently begun to acknowledge the seriousness of trafficking (although the attitude of blaming the victim still exists). Thus far very limited public recourses have been available for the protection of witnesses and victims. The Lithuanian police prepare crime prevention programmes (focusing on teenage crime prevention) and the Centre for Crime Prevention (public non-profit organisation) is also involved in developing crime prevention in line with legal, social, economic and other reforms. The new Programme for the Prevention and Control of Prostitution (2001-2005) has the goal of preparing a programme on the fight against trafficking in women, which reportedly foresees the implementation of legal, administrative and preventive measures as well as social reintegration programmes (resources for the Programme will come from Lithuania’s national budget and from foreign technical assistance projects).
It is quite complicated to speak about scope and dynamics of trafficking in women and prostitution, due to its largely clandestine character. Therefore only indirect evaluation is possible about the numbers.
Our data shows that there may be about 3000 sex workers in Vilnius aged 14-45.
Young women between ages of 18 and 30 years dominate in the supply of prostitutes, however, different agencies provide differing age rages. It can be supposed, that the age of the sex workers decide a certain specialization of the agencies.
Experts also emphasise the fact that among the prostitutes, the number of local minors is on the increase.
By the data presented by Social Ailments Consultation Site “DEMETRA”, not only young but also much older women engage in prostitution. Women between 14 and 54 years of age were among the 142 interviewed street sex workers - the average age 24,5 years.
By the survey implemented with help of “DEMETRA” through the preparation of “Trafficking in women in Lithuania: magnitude, mechanism and actors” report to IOM, distribution of sex workers and trafficked women by age were follows:
|| Prostitutes immigrants
|Under 26 years of age
|26-30 years of age
|31-39 years of age
The education of both trafficking victims and prostitutes is lower than the average in the country. According the Social Ailments Consultation Site “DEMETRA” data, most of Lithuanian prostitutes, even street prostitutes - lowest category of prostitution -have incomplete secondary education.
So, almost all the interviewed prostitutes attended school. Some of them finished 8-10 classes, some went to school for short time, some of them have a college education.
Prostitutes who are trafficked abroad by force have a similar education.
According to data of the Missing Person’s Families Support Centre (Ona Gustiene) the trafficked women had secondary or incomplete secondary education. Data based on questioning about 20 women shows: 10 of the women had incomplete secondary education (one never attended school) and 10 women had secondary education.
However, there are trafficking victims who have a high education too.
|| Local prostitutes
|Did not go to school
|Secondary and college
Education of the girls looks of the least interest the trafficker, the pimps as well as clients. They often consider that the sex workers with a lower education are even better - they bring fewer problems, it is easier to threaten them.
Difference sources showed that most often Lithuanian and Russian (Russian-speaking) prostitutes are engaged in sex business.
“Russians” (usually all Russian speakers are called this way) are in demand since they provide “any kind of services”, “have less requirements”, “more delicate”. On the other hand, in such a business, foreigners are needed just for change.
By “DEMETRA” the distribution of the interviewed prostitutes by nationality and the place of origin was follows:
||Local prostitutes (absolute number)
||Prostitutes immigrants (absolute number)|
by place of origin
|Place of birth
||Local prostitutes (absolute number)
||Prostitutes immigrants (absolute number)
|Other cities in Lithuania
|Country side in Lithuania
|Kaliningrad region (Russia)
|Other part of Russia
|LOCAL AND IMMIGRANTS PROSTITUTION|
Women from foreign countries are integral part of sex workers in Lithuania:
from Russia - 15,6%, Belarus - 20%, Ukraine - 4% - of all the trafficked. Apart from push factors in their home country, which force women from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to seek their fortunes abroad, there are also pull factors in the Lithuania entertainment business.
By report to IOM (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) most experts indicate that even though the number of foreigners is still significant (expert evaluation vary of about 20-30%), it has decreased. There are several reasons of that. First, the introduced visa regimen with CIS countries and improved border control, as well as strict punishments for smuggling and trafficking in human beings to a certain degree, discourage traffickers. Secondly, locals frequently coming from small province towns or villages push out foreign prostitutes. Whereas others use Lithuania just as a transit country (frequently it is the traffickers’ choice) for only a temporary stay and at the first opportunity move further to the West. In general, according to Organized Crime Prevention expert, “a’’ prostitutes want to move abroad but not all succeed”.
Because of their illegal status, the foreign sex workers are the most vulnerable in regard to infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They do not speak Lithuanian, have no social insurance, are forced to work under slavery conditions, they do not have passport and their moving freedom is rather limited. The migrants stay in the flats rented by the pimps, in most of cases they are blackmailed and pay fees. One hour of sex services cost 15-30 USD; sex workers get half of the total.
However foreigners from the Kaliningrad (Russia) have a quite an easy access to Lithuania, especially the neighbouring Klaipeda region. Even though precise numbers are unavailable, Klaipeda seems to be the town with the highest share of foreigners engaged in sex business, - both prostitutes and trafficking victims. Through a well-established network, pimps go on recruiting women in Kaliningrad, who even after deportation easily reappear in Lithuania
According to data of telephone inquiry among escort/call-girl agencies, implemented for report to IOM (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) the majority of prostitutes are single women, however, married and divorced women engage in prostitution as well. Due to the data of survey of 142 prostitutes conducted by the Social Ailments Consultation Site “DEMETRA”, 75% of the prostitutes are single, however as much as, 52% have children. Sometimes, engagement in prostitution is explained (or justified) precisely because of necessity to support children. The situation of those who were trafficked for abroad is a bit different. The data provided by the Missing Person’s Families Support Centre shows that the majority of women trafficked to foreign countries are single (84%, about 43 women). Many of such women, 73%, lived in complete wealthy, so named “good” families.
As far as the information gathered permits to conclude, urban population dominates among the women who where engage in prostitution or were trafficked to foreign countries. For example, the data available at the Missing Person’s Families Support Centre indicates that urban women constituted the greatest percentage among the trafficked women (as much as 80% or 35 women). However, as is clear from recent media publications and some expert evaluations - the situation is changing: more and more frequently girls from rural areas become trafficking victims.
When asked about the religion they practised, sex workers sometimes attributed themselves to Catholics or Orthodox believers, however, even in those rare cases they noted that in essence they did not adhere to any religion and were not firm or ardent believers, they simply added it was “customary to say that, like all others people”.
All the interviewed women-immigrants for report to IOM engaged for prostitution business, with the exception of one prostitute, had greater or less experience in their work activity. Prior to becoming prostitutes they worked at different places: in the kitchens of kindergartens, at a sewing factory, as waitresses in bars, one of them had a certificate of a medical school and had worked as a nurse. There are women who engage in prostitution only temporarily, when they have no other employment and no source of any other income.
According to the data of a telephone inquiry among escort/call-girl agencies, implemented for report to IOM (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) all prostitutes speak Lithuanian. However, in practice (this is confirmed by interviews with the prostitutes immigrants) hardly any foreigners can say more when a few sentences in Lithuanian, they do very well with the Russian language alone. On the other hand, there are prostitutes who can speak several foreign languages and some prostitutes speak English quite well.
As to the girls trafficked to abroad by deception, no requirements concerning languages are set to them. No language requirements are established even to those girls who go to foreign countries being well aware of what kind of activity they are going to engage in. It is possible to suppose that traffickers and pimps may even be interested in recruiting women who do not know a foreign language. This places women into even more vulnerable situations, since, even in case of escaping from “owners”, they will not be able to seek assistance, to address police, NGO, etc.
In general, trafficking in women is closely interrelated with the prostitution business: the local sex industry and trading women abroad are two parts of the one part “normal jobs”. According to some experts, street prostitution forms up to 50% of the sex business, though many others think that its share is much lower.
Street prostitutes serve at average 2-8 clients a day; their services cost 2.5-10 USD.
Even though street prostitution is considered to be rather “free”, prostitutes cannot choose another region/street since their work places are under the control of criminal elements. In addition there is big competition between prostitutes themselves, which does not allow newcomers to enter this market freely. According to some prostitutes, the supply and demand is currently more or less balanced, all places are distributed and all “decent” prostitutes have enough work.
Street prostitutes include Lithuanian nationals, as well as immigrants from neighbouring countries, mainly CIS.
Among the street prostitutes there are also minors. The number of minors could be even higher if other prostitutes would not fight against them. According to one sex worker:
“Those minors they spoil all of our business. Firstly, they knock down the prices. Secondly, we do not want any trouble with the police. If the police detain us, we usually pay them something and they let us go. But if there is a minor, then all this uproar starts and the police have to take action, etc. and we are normally not able to work for several days. Therefore, if I see a minor, I go to her pimp and tell him to take the child away from the street, otherwise, he himself will have problems”.
The biggest share of the prostitution business is well organised and controlled by agencies. The profit from this business in 1997 was estimated at 12 million USD.
Police experts were trying to make an evaluation of the scope based on agency advertisements. According to them, on average, there are around 30-40 advertisements every day, 6-8 sex workers work in every agency. But the agencies do cooperate among themselves and the prostitutes may be borrowed and sold at any time - it depends on current demand.
Data of Social Ailments Consultation Site “DEMETRA” shows that there are more than 30 agencies and about 100 organisers of the business. According to the information from the Ministry of Interior, in Vilnius alone there are 15-20 well-established firms with more than 1.5 million USD income per year. Unofficial expert opinion indicates that the yearly turnover of the prostitution business in Vilnius alone is no less than 5 million USD. More than a half of all income is the profit of the owners of agencies and pimps. The rest goes to prostitutes, call girls and drivers. Approximately a half of Vilnius prostitutes work in agencies.
Since prostitution in Lithuania is illegal, official advertisements sound like “flowers to your home”, “massage”, “soft Massage”, “escort services”, etc. However, most agencies operate quite openly. In addition to the above mentions agencies, there are so called “closed” or “private” agencies, which do not advertise in public in any way, and provide sex services only for clients with “recommendations”. That are so-called “elite sex workers”, their services are expensive - 100-500 USD. We are not able to identify event the proximate number of such the firms and prostitutes working there.
On the other hand there are prostitutes who work individually, those who work from time to time. According to police evaluation, numbers of individually working prostitutes, i.e. those who do not pay pimps, is increasing. In addition there is also the so-called “higher category”, those who work in hotels and bars, those who work with few permanent clients, etc. in general, with regard to the scope of prostitution, different sources indicate that numbers have stabilised since the market is saturated. Still there are seasonal fluctuations, since this business responds to changing market requirements. During summer period it increases and shifts from big cities to resort areas.
It is no appropriate data about male prostitution in sex business.
But it is known that in Vilnius exists the group of man who provide sexual services for the man. It is no data about the number of these men.
Like a female sex business, male sex business act on different levels - organized and not-organized.
Organized is closely connected with the gay scene. These activities are working mostly through the Internet. In most cases there are less educated young boys and man from countryside and other cities. It is no clear border between commercial interests in Internet advertising and “pleasure” announcements. The financial support of younger people by older and wealthy gays is widely known phenomena.
Not organized - young man in age 16-24, who provide sexual services on the streets. Working place for those sex workers is railway station. By “Demetra” center specialist this place exists from the 1991. The price of services is commonly higher then women’s on railway station areas, somewhere 50-100 LT
In Lithuania in summer 2002 one women was arrested, who propose as sexual object (for oral sex) she’s own 6 years old son.
|TRAFFICKING IN LITHUANIA|
In accordance with a reason of involvement into prostitution, we can attribute sex workers to one of the three following categories:
- “volunteers”, who look for easy living and pleasure,
- women and girls who trade sex because of economic reasons (earn money for living, buy food for and dress their children, for drugs, etc.) and because of personal reasons (complicated family relations, influence of asocial friends, etc.),
- victims of international human trade who are “imprisoned” abroad through taking off their passports.
Trafficking of women from Lithuania to foreign countries is quite a new phenomenon, quite a new problem for society and law enforcement institutions. Therefore, quite little is known about its status and development. Although there is no official statistical data on how many women were trafficked for the purpose of prostitution, according to Lithuanian Interpol information, there is no doubt that trafficking in women conducted by organized criminals is on the increase. Experts from the Police Department and Border Guards are of the same opinion.
If some years ago the main trafficking flows were directed to Israel, Greece, United Arab Emirates and Turkey, then recently prostitution business has turned to Germany, Holland, UK, France, Sweden and Spain. Some of these countries, e.g. Germany, also serve as transit country, where victims from Lithuania are resold to brothel owners from other, mainly southern, countries - Italy, Spain, Turkey, etc.
The information provided by the Police Attaché from the German Embassy in Lithuania indicates that among officially registers trafficking victims all over Germany in 2000; Lithuanians form 14% and according absolute numbers are in the fourth place after Russia, Ukraine and Poland. However, proportionally, i.e. evaluating the number of the country’s total population -Lithuania may be considered as an absolute leader.
According o the Vilnius Airport Border Guard service, experts now say every second flight from Germany brings women who are suspected of being engaged in prostitution. In general, most frequently, trafficking victims are returned from Frankfurt, Berlin and Amsterdam. Vienna and Paris flights sometimes also bring trafficking victims, whereas the return of victims from Israel has decreased.
One additional problem - identification, since in the majority of cases, victims are deprived of their own passports and either do not have any documents, or are afforded with false passports. There were many cases, when deported “Lithuanian” appeared to be Russians, Belarussians, Ukrainians, etc. holding false Lithuanian passports.
Lithuanian passports are considered to be good since they open the border to CIS citizens and allow them to legally” stay in the EU. In addition, they are cheap (average cost vary from 100 to 700 USD), and can easily be falsified. Lithuanian passports are not very familiar to local police, therefore until they are detained for come illegal activity, holders of such passports can easily live and travel all over the EU. However, when detained, such foreigners are fixed as “Lithuanians”, and official figures increase.
|PUSH AND PULL FACTORS|
By report to IOM (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) according to experts, the main reasons of migration and prostitution are economic reasons. Firstly - a high unemployment level in Lithuania. 47.6% of jobless people are women; women are paid at average 1.4 times a lower salary than men. There are many single, divorced women who have nobody to help them. Our survey of street sex workers in Vilnius shows that prostitution is the only and the main source of living for 93.4% of the interviewed women not only for them, for their families as well.
Secondly, the absence of any perspectives. Even employed people have hardly enough means for a modest living. Wages are low and a young girl without higher education has very little possibilities to earn money, for example, to buy a flat. Therefore, she loses hope of having a future in her country. Rumours are going around about how much one can earn abroad during a summer, a year.
Another reason of women’s migration is searching for happiness. The women leave their native country dreaming of finding a husband and to get married abroad.
Other reasons of engaging in sex business are found in the family. Parents using alcohol, asocial way of life and the surroundings in which loose morals of a growing girl are factors that push the girl into prostitution.
Traumas of sexual violence suffered in early childhood are listed as one of the very important reasons of prostitution. It goes without saying that most often the girls from asocial families who experience them. As has been noted by experts, if her father has raped a girl of 9-13 years of age, more often than not, stepfather or mother’s cohabitant, the effect of that horrible experience on her mental state will remain with her for the rest of her life. Unless she is cured of this trauma, there is only one step to prostitution.
The main reason of trafficking is money. As compared with other countries of Central Europe, Lithuanian women are cheaper and do not know their rights so well, they cannot defend themselves. Therefore, they are in great demand. As mentioned above, practically nobody is punished for trading in women. That is another reason of trafficking flourishing. According to experts’ from the Ministry of Interior, evaluation, direct reasons why women are engaged in prostitution are different: 15% are engaged in order “to have a nice and joyful life”, 15% - because of curiosity, 13% - ac not to work, 11% - to have additional earnings.
Individual recruitment for work abroad may be done on an accidental basis, or it may by targeted, in both cases women may or may not be informed about the real purpose of the trip, though, officially offer sound like “working as au-pair”, as a “house keeper, in the cleaning services”, etc.
In some cases recruitment is still organized using advertisements in newspaper, where non-existent firms offer non-existent work abroad. However, this type of recruitment is becoming less and less popular. Nowadays recruitment becomes more delicate and more personalised. Traffickers either search for women in desperate situations or young girls who may be cheated, especially from asocial families. Another way, traffickers try to “become friends” and only then offer a “good job abroad and only for you since they need a reliable person”. In both cases the consequences are more or less similar.
Ingrida, 19 years old.
Once I was going with a minivan. The driver was Russian, he began to talk tome. When he found out that I knew English, he told me hat his mate could offer me a housemaid’s job abroad. I gave him my telephone number. The next day some guy called me. We met near a shop, another gut came, too. They explained to me how much I would earn. I was supposed to work for three months and earn 1000 DEM per month. I agreed. After two weeks (during that period of time a second girl was found). They took me from home. Some guys arrived with a small bus with bed on the top. They took us to Warsaw in Poland, one guy explained: “Stupid girl. What housemaids can you be? There are enough local housekeepers. You will have to make love”. Then they gave us bus tickers and put us on the Warsaw-Barcelona bus. They reminded us that they had paid 500 USD for each ticket. They also gave 100 USD to each of us.
Why did I not run away when I found out where was going and for what kind of “job” well, I thought that I would trick them somehow and I would earn some money. You won’t get any job in Lithuania. But afterwards I ran away because they did not pay me, just like the other girls, they just sold me. “Why do I have to work for them? I can work alone”, I thought.
Two Yugoslavians met us in Barcelona. They took us to their flat, which was 500 kilometres away. They bought us some clothes. We lived in the same club where we were working from 5 p.m. to 4 in the morning. There were 30 girls: 16 from Mexico, 8 from Russia and 4 from Lithuania. In January 2 Belarussians arrived. According to their story, they were trafficked to Lithuania first, only then were they sent to Spain.
If the client was not satisfied the girls were beaten severely. Once I was also beaten badly, but the next day had to go to “work” as usual. When a girl did something wrong, she was taken to a special flat for “educating”. One time the pimps took another girls and me. When my friend was locked in the other room, I snatched a few things and jumped through the window. I ran to the police department, which was not far from the flat. I began to cry and told a policeman how I was tricked: I was promised housemaid’s job but I had to work as a prostitute. I can speak English; I have also learned Spanish a little bit so I could explain everything to them. They felt pity for me and drove me to Madrid in their own car. And from Madrid I came back to Lithuania
|HEALTH CARE AND SOCIAL SERVICES|
So far, the assistance to sex workers including migrants and trafficked women has been very limited and accessible only in Vilnius. It is clearly insufficient.
Firstly, it is assistance by telephone. Several telephone help lines for women operate in Lithuania where women can call should a problem arise. Trafficking victims, as a rule, know little or nothing about such the telephone lines.
Secondly, dissemination of relevant information. Most information is not directly linked to trafficking problems. For example, the Women’s Information Centre collected information about missing women and girls. This information has been forwarded out to consular missions and embassies of different countries and various women organisations in other countries. Unfortunately, there are only very few cases when concrete assistance was provided.
Thirdly, practical assistance for trafficking victims. The Missing People’s Families Support Centre within the framework of its financial resources available, organises practical assistance to the women who managed to escape from being forced to engage in prostitution abroad: a shelter and food. The centre has published several brochures containing warning information (“You might be one of them”) and encouraging to appeal for assistance. However, according to the head of the Centre, the activities are limited by a shortage of funds and humans resources.
Fourthly, assistance in the sphere of health. The Social Ailments Consultation Site at the Lithuanian AIDS Centre www.aids.lt provides all kinds of assistance for trafficking victims and sex workers working mainly on the streets. Currently the programme aimed at reducing the harm done by sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS to risk groups is being carried out: condoms, sterile syringes and needles, as well as consultations are provided.
The most threatening consequence of prostitution is human health. Prostitutes are often infected with different venereal diseases. They pass on these diseases to their customers, and the latter pass them on to their families. According to experts from the Ministry of Interior, up to 60-80% of clients are married men. Nobody knows in what way consequences of prostitution or drug addiction will come into his/her family and who will be affected. Most people think that such things will never affect them. Many people in society fail to realise the threat this problem poses, they do not think that very soon they might be affected by it themselves.
According to the data provided by the Social Ailments Consultation Site “DEMETRA”
- 20.4% of the 142 sex workers interviewed had syphilis,
- 14.8% were ill with gonorrhoea;
- 14.8% had chlamydiasis;
- 12.7% had trichomonosis;
- 59.8% had bacterial viginasis;
- 29.0% - hepatitis C;
- 12.7% - hepatitis B;
- 1.4% had HIV diagnosis.
According to experts, at present at least two HIV infected prostitutes “work” in the area of the railway station. No legal basis exists for prohibiting them to engage in such kind of work. Therefore all customers are subjects to real danger of becoming infected, and consequently, there is also a danger that their innocent family members will become infected too.
Street sex workers do not have in majority of cases social insurance, a place for living, prostitution is illegal in Lithuania, and thus no medical services are available for them.
“DEMETRA” provide free testing on STI, HIV, hepatitis C/B. Treatment is also free of charge. Consultation of gynaecologist, dermatovenerologist, psychologist and social worker is also available. Tests are being performed in the laboratory of the AIDS Centre.
On their first visit sex workers may be tested on HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B/C, herpes simplex virus, urogenital smear and samples to identify C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoea are also provided.
The problems the team of the Centre do face mostly are: lack of resources - both financial and human, insufficient experience, and poor relations with pimps. That is the pimp who often prevents the sex workers from applying to the Centre. Services are also not available for sex workers in the escort agencies and brothels since we experience difficulties in getting there and spread our information on availability of confidential services (sex workers do not wish and are afraid to admit that are engaged in sex trade).
Fifthly, publications, educational activity. Since 1999 the NGO “Steps of the past” has taken part in the project devoted to the problems of prostitution. In 1999 the book “Trading in women” was published. A new book summarising studies of prostitution in Lithuania was published in 2001. With an active help of this organisation the film “Girls” has been shot. A campaign to visit all the counties of Lithuanian and hold discussions and show the film at schools is on agenda.
Another form of activity is addressing these problems at scientific conferences. For example, in November 2000, on the initiative of the Women’s Union of Lithuania, with the support of Ebert Fund in Germany, the conference “Threats of prostitution” was organised. In October 2001 Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the International Migration Organisation’s (IOM) representation in Vilnius have organised an international conference devoted mostly to the problems of women’s trafficking.
Sixthly, cooperation between NGOs and a network creation. Thus far cooperation of NGOs has been inactive and the network creation is making its first steps. We trust very much that cooperation with foreign partners will open up wider possibilities. So far, it is the only TAMPEP project and, in the nearest future - the project FENARETE (aimed at peer education), in which Lithuanian AIDS Centre takes and will take part.
|Activities in the frame of TAMPEP project|
The Social Ailments Consultation Site “Demetra” at the Lithuanian AIDS Centre in collaboration with migrant sex workers, has developed more effective strategies for contacting the target group, as well as new materials. The Site provides all kinds of assistance for trafficking victims as well as female sex workers working mainly on the streets and, in certain cases, in escort agencies. One of the services provided to the target group is facilitation of direct contact between migrant sex workers and institutions active in the social and medical fields, and, in case of a need, of contact with a lawyer.
Street sex workers often do not have permanent place of residence, they do not only work on the street but they also live on the street. They are deprived even of the most elementary conditions - they have no place where they can wash or have a bath. A shower is installed in the Site. There the sex workers are taught the basics of hygiene and safe sex. Their health is also examined. About 92% of the sex workers who have visited “Demetra” for the first time were infected with different sexually transmitted diseases. After they were treated at site incidence within that area decreased by 40%. This fact clearly shows that problems of prostitution, forced prostitution, in particular, and health are closely related and in the future a much greater attention should be paid to health problems.
Currently work at “Demetra” organized in groups. The following groups have been distinguished: drug addicts, sex workers drug users, also, the fact of whether they work with a large number of partners and they often change partners, was taken into consideration. There is also a preparatory group are the Children’s Care Home. Since it is quite often that girls of 12-13 years of age begin to engage in sex trade, dangers of prostitution, its harm to health and personality, etc. are discussed when working in this group.
The Social Ailments Consultation Site “Demetra” at its own expense carries out social studies of its contingent. Filling in a questionnaire containing 43 questions collects basic information. The Site also distributes brochures “Talking about condoms with a partner”, “If a condom slips off or gets torn”, “Hepatitis B”, “Safer work” and others (in the native languages of the target group: Lithuanian and Russian).
Interventions promoting safer sex practices alone are not sufficient. Targeted information for sex workers, instructing them on its proper use, and teaching negotiating skills, has been supplemented by direct fieldwork. Every staff member spends 96 hours per year for outreach work.
The employees of “Demetra” communicate with the sex workers in a humane and sympathetic way. Different events are organized; gifts at Christmas and other occasions are given. Efforts are made to help women rather than moralise them. The sex workers go there like it’s their own home, to find what every human being needs. They trust the Site and are not afraid of being reported to the police.
On the initiative of the staff, AIDA, the NGO Association of HIV/AIDS Affected Women and Their Relatives has been established, whose objective apart from other goals, is to help women feel that they are not completely isolated and left alone with their problems.
The Social Ailments Consultation Site has become a kind of referral organisation for a variety of issues related to sex work and migrant sex workers. The Programme for the Prevention and Control of Prostitution (2001-2005) includes also a lot of information provided by the Site. Representatives of mass media have been frequent visitors of the Site. Those interviews help us to form public opinion on the problem and raise awareness.
The national seminar “Legal aspects of women marginalisation” was held on 20th February 2002. It was organised in Lithuanian Parliament, which proves the changes in attitudes of Lithuanian authorities toward sex trade and women’ trafficking. Participants of the seminar includes parliamentarians, members of Government, Municipality, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Security and Labour”, representatives of NGOs.
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Currently discussions about legalising prostitution liven up in Lithuania. The supporters are sure that the legalisation of prostitution might solve the problem of the health of sex workers’ and reduce incidence of sexually transmitted infections, decrease the number of cases of rape in women, it is said that this would allow to direct the profit of the illegal business of prostitution to the state budget, legalisation would allow to control the business. Opponents: the legalisation of prostitution would not resolve problems or, having resolved some of them, would give rise to others.
NGOs in Lithuania provide some support to women in accordance with the nature of their activity. Certain assistance to women-trafficking victims is provided, consultation and medical aid is offered, few research projects have been carried out, etc. However, it is obvious that their activity is insufficiently coordinated, their economic base is weak, and the possibilities of support are faint.
By report to IOM (Tureikite, Sipaviciene, 2001) Lithuanian society is poorly informed and is not really concerned about either trafficking of women, the spread of prostitution or about the consequences of the existing situation. In many cases these processes seem to be taking place somewhere with somebody, it is not realized that they might affect every family, and very soon can come close to each member of the society. The formation of public opinion, intolerance to the people engaged in trafficking of other individuals is urgently important without any doubts. It should also be mentioned that, when speaking about prostitution, it’s other side that is the customer, is usually ignored on the whole.
Experts give a very controversial assessment of the role of the mass media. On one side, it is condemned for the creation of the image of a “longed, pretty, young” sex workers who is sure to meet a customer millionaire who falls in love with her and with whom she has a happy family life. On the other side, a very important role of the mass media is recognised in providing information to the public about prostitution, trafficking in women and tragic and crippled lives of the women who found themselves at the hands of traffickers. Recently TV programme, radio broadcasts and the press teem with descriptions of concrete cases, however, the analysis of the mass media shows that serious analytical in-depth scientific studies investigating prostitution as a social phenomenon and the problem of trafficking in women in detail are still lacking.
Prostitution in Lithuania is considered as a negative social appearance, which often is related to crime, STI and drug use epidemics, discrimination and exploitation of women. To gain a confidence of this group is rather very difficult because of marginalization of the sex workers.
In Lithuania prostitution or are extradited with excellent experience of hiding from the state control, most of them - return with any sexually transmitted infection. Sex workers are deprived of any right for social security and of protection from violence of pimps and customers.
An alternative might be permissions for a work, which should be issued by institution responsible for prostitution control in cooperation with NGO involved into prevention of prostitution.
As the sex workers in majority of cases are socially vulnerable, the legal protection should be available. They avoid breaking off prostitution and report trafficking because of fear to get assaulted by pimps and traffickers.
Taking into account that prostitution is a social appearance, it is to be addressed with all social means: social programme for sex traders, social support for those who raise children, educational means nor only in schools but also in the general population, etc. Interventions in “bridge” groups, e.g. customers are also of highest importance involving not only governmental but also non-governmental organisations.
Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Baltic States: Social and Legal Aspects. IOM, Helsinki, 2001.
Svetlana Kulsis, Head, Social Ailments Consultation Site, Lithuanian AIDS Centre
Rima Krupenkaite, Assistant to Director, Lithuanian AIDS Centre
Saulius Caplinskas, Direktor of AIDS Centre
Nugaletoju St. 14D, LT-2016 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel. +3702 300125; Fax. +3702 300123; e-mail: email@example.com