Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Locals Helpless As Sex Tourism Hits Georgian Black Sea Village

Locals say their once peaceful village has turned into a prostitution hub that sees hundreds of foreign women, mostly from Central Asia and the North Caucasus, descend on Gonio in the summer.
Locals say their once peaceful village has turned into a prostitution hub that sees hundreds of foreign women, mostly from Central Asia and the North Caucasus, descend on Gonio in the summer.
By Nata Imedaishvili and Claire Bigg
GONIO, Georgia -- Every summer, thousands of vacationers flock to Gonio, a picturesque village on Georgia's Black Sea coast popular for its pristine beach and its well-preserved Roman fort.

In recent years, however, an entirely different type of attraction has been drawing tourists to Gonio.

Locals say their once peaceful village has turned into a prostitution hub that sees hundreds of foreign women, mostly from Central Asia and the North Caucasus, descend on Gonio in the summer months.

The sex workers appear to cater chiefly to Turkish men, who do not require visas to cross into Georgia. Gonio lies a mere 4 kilometers from the Turkish border.

Local residents complain the scantily clad women openly solicit for clients in the streets and flag down cars on the village's main road, which runs between the Turkish border and Georgia's main Black Sea resort of Batumi.

"Everyone in the Ajara region knows what problems we face here in Gonio," one local says. "These Uzbek women roam around the village, they don't care whether there are children nearby. Together with Turks, they have taken over Gonio, and possibly the whole of Batumi."

The prostitutes are hard to ignore in tiny Gonio, home to just 3,000 inhabitants. Villagers say their presence deeply offends their feelings and disrupts their traditional lifestyle.

"The Turks are beginning to think that all women are like that," says another resident, Mamuka Malakhmadze. "We are a very proud people, and if someone approaches our wives or even our female neighbors, they will be in trouble. Why do we have to deal with this in our village?"

Locals accuse the Georgian government of turning a blind eye to Gonio's rampant prostitution.

They hold regular pickets against sex tourism, and some 450 people recently sent a letter of complaint to the local mayor, Ajara's regional authorities, and the office of President Mikheil Saakashvili.

'Too Little Being Done'

The authorities have taken some steps to tackle the problem.

Police conduct occasional raids, although they usually come back empty-handed. Residents say sex workers tend to clear the scene minutes before the raids, causing suspicion that police may have ties to prostitution circles.

A Georgian court recently sentenced a man to 15 years in jail for running a prostitution ring in the Ajara region.

And this week, a woman from Azerbaijan was fined the equivalent of $60 and deported from Georgia after admitting to working as a prostitute in Gonio.

"What takes place here is completely obvious because our main road is used by everyone, from government officials to peasants," one man says.
"What takes place here is completely obvious because our main road is used by everyone, from government officials to peasants," one man says.

The measures, however, have had no visible impact on the overall situation in Gonio.

One of the petition's signatories, David Kokoladze, says the sex tourists are becoming increasingly brazen

"When we complain to them, they have grown so insolent that they respond aggressively, they tell us to mind our own business," Kokoladze says. "Armenians, too, are now among the clients. The women are mainly from Uzbekistan, Daghestan, and Chechnya. What takes place here is completely obvious because our main road is used by everyone, from government officials to peasants."

Sex-Trafficking Concerns

Most worryingly, a number of these women have likely been forced into prostitution.

The man recently convicted over prostitution in Ajara was found guilty of luring an Uzbek woman to Georgia on promises of employment at a local tea factory. Judges said the man then physically tortured her into working as a prostitute.

The plight of Gonio's sex workers was brought to light again last month when a Kyrgyz prostitute committed suicide in the village.

Georgia has stepped up efforts to combat human trafficking on its territory in recent years, investigating trafficking cases, opening shelters for victims, and conducting training and prevention activities.

The U.S. State Department's 2012 report on human trafficking, released on June 19, placed Georgia in "Tier 1," alongside countries that fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

Some human rights campaigners, however, say the unbridled prostitution in Gonio casts severe doubts on Georgia's commitment to combating sexual exploitation and trafficking.

"If Georgia is in the [State Department's] first tier, it's largely a political decision because we certainly don't deserve it," says Nana Nazarova, who runs the Georgian civic group People's Harmonious Development Association. "Our laws are the best, and we have shelters and funds for these shelters. But what we are witnessing in Ajara is outrageous."

While praising Tbilisi for its efforts in tackling human trafficking, the State Department also noted that "women from Uzbekistan and possibly other countries are found in forced prostitution in the commercial sex industry in Georgia."

Its report cautioned that Georgia, from previously being mainly "a source and transit country," was increasingly turning into a destination country for trafficked people.

Reported by Nata Imedaishvili in Gonio. Written by Claire Bigg in Prague. Additional reporting by Jimsher Rekhviashvili of RFE/RL's Georgian Service

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 08, 2012 16:24
no wonder the Caucasians want Sharia system. If that happened in my backyard I'd want the toughest law system in the world to deal with those ,,,,
In Response

by: Sey from: World
July 09, 2012 17:03
I agree 100,000%

Just don't let the liberals hear you, they might accuse you of violating the human rights of pimps and prostitutes
In Response

by: Nana from: Georgia
July 17, 2012 18:47
Georgia has toughest law system, but unfortunately not in case of “Gonio”…
Local administration thinks, that sex tourism is good business, they never listen about organize crime, about trafficking in human beings, they don’t know that by Georgian Criminal Code trafficker will be in prison 15 year!
since December we help 17 uzbek women back at home, 4 from them was trafficking victim…
There are some reason WHY in Ajara, why in Gonio and what it is? as I understand, it’s not sex tourism, it’s service system for turk-drivers…

by: Ken from: USA
July 08, 2012 16:59
Do they get Goniorhea?

by: Thomas from: Berlin
July 08, 2012 17:36
You should also report on sex tourism in Kyrgyzstan and (on a far smaller but growing level in) Tajikistan. The expatriate community in Bishkek, including the thousands of soldiers stationed there, have induced the supply of prostitution in Kyrgyzstan and the likely spread of venereal diseases. Iranian sex tourists are also known to fly in to booze and frolic with local Kyrgyz females women. Also in Tajikistan, American GIs on their so-called "R & R" are known to fly in from Kabul for a few nights of womanizing with local prostitutes picked up in a number of discos in Dushanbe. The victims of this illegal activity are the local females, whose physical and mental health are in serious jeopardy, not to mention the social exclusion and harassment they encounter from the mostly traditional Muslim population and totally inept and corrupt police. The culprit of this business is poverty, breaking up of traditional families (due to migration of parents to Russia), and also the demand by sex tourist and visiting citizens of wealthier states, such as Turkish and Iranian businessmen and American soldiers, among others.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 09, 2012 12:59
That is called democracy. Germany is no exception. You are free to fall into pimps hands and become a slave for a long time. In dictatorships like those Muslim terrorist regimes i.e. Taliban in Afghanistan they oppress those pimps and the women by beheading them in front of public. Even the most democratic government of the world, the UN, got upset that Taliban didn't give freedoms to the poppy fields and brutally destroyed 95% of Afghani heroin production for the fiscal year 2000-2001.
In Response

by: Central Asia Expat from: Kyrgyzstan
July 13, 2012 12:44
Democracy, Anonymous? Democracy?!? How familiar are you with Tajikistan??? Tajikistan may not live under Sharia law or the Taliban, but let's not conflate 'democracy' with lawlessness and lack of even the most basic social protection in a society where women are easily exploited, for all the reasons that Thomas mentions above. (And you may also want to read up a bit on the Tajik president - if he's not a dictator, I don't know what is...)

Other than Thomas' use of the rather antiquated term 'venereal disease', he has pretty much nailed the situation in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as I've observed from five years of living here. Though I am a strong advocate of the legalization of sex work (it is legal in Kyrgyzstan, though it remains illegal in Tajikistan), with legalization is supposed to come regulation and protection for sex workers for exploitative situations like those Thomas describes. We do not see that situation in Central Asia.

In the future, you'd be wise to do the slightest bit of background research before throwing around terms like 'democracy' and 'freedom' to describe countries that are still suffering under desperately corrupt and repressive regimes.
In Response

by: maryam
July 13, 2012 17:19
Anonymous for a reason? U are a sicko..NATO is also fighting those poppy fields and trying to replace them with cooking spices. Like SOME of those people you speak about~ lies is a part of your upbringing. Like Tacchyia much?False propaganda is not believed by intelligent people so I guess youre continuing to use your brand of religions attempt at brainwashing.Prostitution is wrong I agree. All countries need reform VIA democracy not sharia."Caucasions" and MANY others abhore sharia, so quit trying to lie to promote it. They are chasing it out of their countries. They dont want you there, EVER.

by: Anonymous
July 09, 2012 07:58
"The Turks are beginning to think that all women are like that," says one resident "We are a very proud people, and if someone approaches our wives or even our female neighbors, they will be in trouble."
Look at that.Some Turks (some Muslims) as many times talking about sharia, talking about punishing women who do not behave properly, who do not use a veil, even in favour of killing their sisters and wives for pseudo-religious reasons (hundreds of honour killings in Turkey, not few in the E.U. per year) go to a Georgian city to turn it into a large night club.
Georgian authorities know for sure what's happening. They should crush the ones who organize it, be it Georgians be it Turks, whoever. If they don't Gonio might be turned into a place like Moldova and others where people go to rape children and women for some dollars.
If Georgian authorities don't want violence to spread they should act immediately.
As in many cases, the neighbourhood will also be affected. Besides, the women who do these jobs, have probably been raped and beaten several times, so their empathy towards children might be not that evolved, be it due to their experience, be it due to their fear of punishment by the ones who organize this "business".
As someone stated, another danger is the very probable radicalization of the population, turning to violence, revenge, killings, etc.
Just make the hypocrite "sex-tourists" leave, punish them severely if they violate the laws. If there is no legislation, vote for a specific conduct, vote against these clubs, draw a bill against this phenomenon and apply the law.
If Georgians do not act, as stated above, the chances are quite high that this phenomenon will influence society very negatively.
Don't be too tolerant if someone is trying to turn your homeland into a brothel.

by: Anonymous
July 09, 2012 13:05
The whole story smells fishy. Bwhahahaha. I am funny.

Now serious info. Adjara is a Muslim country which Georgians occupy. Time to get independence from Georgia. I'm not surprised if those so-called "Turks" will turn out to be a bunch of Armenians and Georgians from Turkey. Turks do not need to travel overseas to get laid. They have a bunch of Russian better looking Natashas in their neighborhood.
In Response

by: Tamara from: Niagara
July 10, 2012 06:51
Adjara is a very own Georgian land, plus Artvini, Artaani regions of present day Turkey.. even Trabzon was founded by Georgians, and was under the rule of Georgian Kingdom!! So stupid to say this bullsh*t!! They were used to convert to Islam, as turks conquered Georgia from middle ages... Even today, there are Georgian Turks living as millions in Turkey, who still speak Georgian and have Georgian traditions saved.
In Response

by: Chveneburi from: USA
July 11, 2012 02:38
Tamara are you talking about 2 millions of Chveneburi the Muslim Georgians, who were forcefully deported from the Caucasus like Chechens and other Muslim tribes, to the Ottoman Empire by the Orthodox Christian Georgians and their religious brothers the Russians? Please tell us when are you going to return back us and the other ethnic Georgians who forgot their native language - the Turk Meskhetins? Speak up a little louder. We cannot hear you.
In Response

by: Tamara from: Niagara
July 19, 2012 10:26
Chveneburi from: USA

I do respect Turk Meskhetians and all the muhajirs residing in Turkey. I have been in those areas and met them twice. You are right we have to speak up loud, as current government doesn't care much about the issue and situation is in a vague. Personally I welcome them, but I'm afraid in some regions Georgians have the problem of awareness, which might harm the process of repatriation. I think its a shame we haven't solved this issue yet. I'm really sad that this topic is not interesting for political figures and decision makers. As Georgian current government is orientated to short-term activities and care less about more important, I may say, the most important issues like the repatriation of Turk Meskhetians.

I promise I'm trying to talk loud and do my best, but is there anyone to listen? I don't think so, especially in this situation.

p.s. There are people saying, new city Lazika is built to repatriate Turk Meskhetians there. Any ideas?
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
July 10, 2012 13:40
Actually Anonymous, Adjara is predominantly Christian, with a large (but shrinking) Moslem minority.

Stats from 2006:

2006 estimates by the Department of Statistics of Adjara, 63% are Georgian Orthodox Christians, and 30% Muslim.[4] The remaining are Armenian Christians (0.8%), Roman Catholics (0.2%), and others (6%).
In Response

by: Chveneburi from: USA
July 11, 2012 02:40
Chveneburi had arrived in Turkey basically in three waves of migration due to ethnic cleansing and pograms of Muslims by the Russian Empire. The first wave was during and after the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829 when the Sublime Porte consigned its sovereignty over several parts of Georgia to the Russian Empire. Minor immigrations had also followed until Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878 when the major wave of immigration involved immigrants from historic Georgian regions that had considerable Muslim populations like Artvin, Adjara, Ardahan, Samtskhe, and Lower Guria. Adjarians were also known by their places of origin, such as Batumlular for people from Batumi, Çürüksulular for people from Kobuleti. This wave of being muhajirs, known as muhajiroba (მუჰაჯირობა) had left many Muslim-majority regions of Georgia virtually depopulated. The last sizeable wave of immigration was in 1921 when Turkey finally gave up her claims on Adjara in the Treaty of Kars with the Soviet republics. This last wave also involved Turkish-speaking Muslims from Upper Adjara.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 09, 2012 15:24
It looks like between the Eurovision contest, the football championship in Ukraine and the Olympic games in London the RFE/RL has to fill the summer gap with something - and what is better for this purpose than the topic of sex tourism.

by: Sey from: World
July 09, 2012 17:21
I personally am for going Taliban on these pimps and their prostitutes. Enough with people being hopelessly awaiting for officials to aid them.

If the people of this village don't take the matter into their own hands quickly, it is going to get unreasonably worse. So I hope they don't surrender.
In Response

by: Reality
July 13, 2012 12:50
That's a good idea, Sey. Let's make sure that these women who have been trafficked and exploited, who may have suffered from serious sexual and psychological trauma as children or even as adults (as many sex workers have) get 'dealt with' by the local populace. I mean, personally, if my daughter were trafficked into sex slavery, thinking she was going to work in a tea factory for the summer to pay her college tuition, I'd want a villager to beat the crap out of her to teach her her lesson. Maybe even kill her. That would show her that the villagers won't 'surrender.'

That's a much better way of solving things that addressing the *demand* for sex services from tourists. Because I'm sure those girls would keep coming there to just walk around on the streets if no one was buying from them... ((Eye roll))

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2012 09:14
It's time for harsh punishments for those who are involved in trafficking and raping women!
All traffickers should at least spend more than 5 years in prison.
Someone who is guilty of rape more than 5 years, these people should maybe undergo medical treatment. (yeah, Amnesty is against, yet, what about the women and children who get raped, sold, beaten, killed?)
Traffickers caught in Europe should be barred from entering the E.U. during the next 15 years.
If it's a Muslim, involved in sex-trade, raping and selling women and married, just apply sharia! A married man hence committed adultery (the sura with the "slaves doesn't apply anymore!). Hence, adultery means death! (If some Muslims in Afghanistan kill women, it's time for some traffickers and rapists to meet the same lot. Sounds harsh but in some places deterrence is seemingly important.
The sad thing by the way is that some women in Moldova, Russia, etc. do believe the lies and are willing to go to Turkey, etc. to apparently earn some money as dancers, etc. Thus, more programs should address the issue in the places where women tend to be seduced by lies and pseudo-contracts.
All the women who are forced against their will should be freed and the one responsible as said above should be punished as severely as possible.
It's interesting that NATO, the U.S. and the E.U., even Muslim nations Turkey, Qatar, etc. talk about Syria, Afghanistan, etc., women's rights; some are even willing to spend billions of dollars for wars. Yet, what's happening to women in Europe, Asia...seems not to be the utmost priority.
It's rarely the sister if the trafficker, the politician, the businessmen, the lawyer, etc. that is sold and raped.
Some girls form villages in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc. apparently have less rights?!
In Response

by: Ben
July 11, 2012 13:13
RFE captiously watches Georgia, and one can think that Georgian authorities have no more seriouse problems.Happy government.

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