Accessibility links

Breaking News

It Takes Two To Tango: Tajiks Eye Targeting 'Men Of Loose Morals' In Tackling Prostitution

Prosecutors argue that in practice the wording has led to the law to be used only against women, while men have largely escaped punishment when caught by police.
Prosecutors argue that in practice the wording has led to the law to be used only against women, while men have largely escaped punishment when caught by police.

"Men of loose morals" is the term that Tajik prosecutors want added to the country's laws to combat prostitution.

Prostitution is illegal and considered a misdemeanor in Tajikistan.

But under current legislation, only women are liable for committing the offense.

Now the Prosecutor-General's Office has called on parliament to amend the law to introduce punishments for men engaged in prostitution.

The agency is drafting a bill for submission to parliament in early 2018, says Farrukh Raufov, a high-ranking official at the Prosecutor-General's Office.

The agency wants punishments for men to be "harsher" than for the women, Raufov said.

That could reflect the relative standing of men in Tajikistan's conservative society, but it could also stoke fears of an official crackdown targeting gay and other LGBT groups that already face public pressure in the predominantly Muslim Central Asian republic of around 8 million.

Tajikistan's Code of Administrative Offenses stipulates about a $110 fine for prostitution. Repeat offenders can face fines of up to around $120 as well as up to 15 days in detention.

However, the wording of the law is sufficiently vague and it can be argued that it applies only to female sex workers.

Prosecutors argue that in practice the wording has led to the law to be used only against women, while men have largely escaped punishment when caught by police.

The prosecutors are now proposing to add the phrase of "men of loose morals" to the Administrative Code to target men involved in prostitution either as clients or sex workers.

Punitive measures for such males would be twice as harsh as those for women, if the bill becomes law.

They would face up to a $220 fine, while repeat offenders could receive fines of up to $440 and up to 30 days in detention.

"The bill is aimed at preventing prostitution and promoting the moral well-being of society," Raufov said. "It's a supply-and-demand concept. If there are no men looking for the service of prostitutes, there won't be such women."

The bill is expected to apply to male sex workers, including among members of LGBT communities that already face official discrimination.

Tajikistan came under widespread criticism in October after drawing up a registry of more than 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said the move was aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as protecting sexual minorities.

There are no official statistics on the exact number of female sex workers in Tajikistan.

In January, Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said police raids had uncovered some 280 brothels across the country and registered 1,991 female prostitutes, a majority of them aged 18-30.

Earlier statistics provided by the state Women's Affairs Committee in 2013 stood at 1,641.

Many female sex workers say widespread poverty and unemployment have forced them to prostitution.

Among other measures to tackle prostitution among women, Tajik authorities have introduced so-called morality classes for sex workers to attend lectures by police officers, doctors, and community leaders.

At such sessions, police and doctors explain legal liabilities and the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, while community leaders give advice on alternative career training options.

The morality classes were first launched in southern city of Qurghon-Teppa in 2016.

  • 16x9 Image

    Mumin Ahmadi

    Mumin Ahmadi has been a correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service since 2008. He graduated from Kulob State University and has worked with Anvori Donish, Millat, Khatlon-Press, and the Center for Journalistic Research of Tajikistan. He was also the editor in chief of Pajwok.

  • 16x9 Image

    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.