The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.
9. 12. 04
Lucie Sidova
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

The Organization of Bulgarian Prostitution in the Czech Republic

In this article, Lucie Šídová reflects on the current situation involving the prostitution of Bulgarian women in the Czech Republic. Reflecting on her experience while working with Rozkoš bez rizika (R-R), a civic association focusing on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, Šídová comments on the organizational patterns of prostitution. The author describes the circumstances with which prostitutes must deal, including the violence and intimidation of their pimps and other prostitutes as well sistuations in which women from underprivileged families are sold to orgnaized gangs to work as prostitutes.

The Organization of Bulgarian Prostitution in the Czech Republic

By Lucie Šídová

This short article describes the prostitution of Bulgarian women in the Czech Republic and the way this activity is organized. Prostitutes from Bulgaria have represented and still represent a major portion of foreign prostitutes working in the Czech Republic. The article is based on my experience as a staffer in Rozkoš bez rizika (R-R), a civic association focusing on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), diagnostics and the treatment of people at risk.

In 1998, when I started working for R-R, 8 percent of our clients were Bulgarians. The number of Bulgarian prostitutes has fluctuated since then. In 2002, the number fell, but since then, the share of Bulgarians visiting R-R stands at around 4 percent.

In the past few years, our Bulgarian clients have changed. Between 1998 and 2001, the clients were on average better educated, spoke some Czech and regularly came to the downtown Prague consulting room for complete gynecological and STD checkups. After that, their age and level of education dropped. We estimate that today, 80 percent of them are illiterate. Also, their knowledge of Czech or Russian is poorer. Some of the women cannot even speak Bulgarian and have to resort to speaking in the Roma or Turkish language.

It is important to note that with respect to the described changes among Bulgarian clients, these women now have a harder time coming to R-R than before. They are prohibited from contacting people outside of their organization. The year 2002 was a turning point regarding the frequency of Bulgarian visitors, most likely due to changes in the hierarchy of organized gangs (before, an experienced prostitute would accompany other girls for checkups) and growing mistrust towards institutions and people. This mistrust is likely to have resulted from frequent raids and inspections by the Czech police. Many pimps and prostitutes have been arrested.

There are around 50 women from Bulgaria working the streets of Prague. They come from underprivileged families who often sell them to organized gangs. The families then receive regular payments which may not be very high but which nevertheless represent an important source of income for the families in Bulgaria. The prostituting women are usually from the Roma or Turkish minority. Unlike women from the former USSR, Bulgarians in Prague usually work on the street (Perlová, Václavské náměstí, Staroměstské náměstí, etc.). In the regions bordering Germany and Austria, they usually work in night clubs.

Bulgarian prostitutes in the Czech Republic do not work on their own but rather for organized gangs. In Prague, for example, there are three competing groups, with each group controlling a different part of the city. They are hierarchical organizations controlled by a boss, with a pimp being second on the ladder followed by his girlfriend or associate responsible for 2 to 3 prostitutes. Prostitutes are imported to the Czech Republic from a number of poor regions in Bulgaria such as Sliven (Perlová), New and Old Zagora (Václavské náměstí) and Kazanlak (Staroměstské náměstí). The pimp takes care of all the required documents. In the course of a six-month period, prostitutes are allowed to remain in the country for only 3 months and then should leave the country for 3 months. They also use the possibility of asylum. They apply for an asylum and before a decision is made as a part of the asylum procedure, they are able to continue working.

Most of the women know that they will work as prostitutes. However, their ideas of the conditions awaiting them are very different. They are beaten, forced to prostitute and are intimidated. They are not allowed to go anywhere on their own. They are guarded by older prostitutes and pimps and have to turn in all money. It is difficult for them to stand up against their organization because they are uneducated. However, in spite of the existing violence and forced prostitution, it seems that the brutality of gangs in Bulgarian night clubs is dropping as the gangs do not want to draw too much public attention. Nevertheless, the brutality of some of the gangs (especially the street gangs) is extreme. For example, the boss Belčev, who used to work in and around Chomutov and Dubí, liked to burn prostitutes with a hot iron.

“Superfluous prostitutes” go back home or leave to work in other countries. Organized Bulgarian groups have contacts in Germany, Spain, Poland and elsewhere. A prostitute is “superfluous” if she makes little money, is too well-known, cannot obtain a work visa and/or extend her stay in the Czech Republic. In order to prevent prostitutes from testifying against their pimp, pimps make them pregnant. One pimp can therefore have for example 13 children. One of the ways for the women to escape the world of prostitution is through meeting a foreign client (“prince charming”) and leaving with him.

It is not possible to estimate how many Bulgarian prostitutes are residing in the Czech Republic involuntarily. It is certain, however, that they are afraid to ask for help. They are subjected to psychological and physical torture and therefore trust no one. It is very difficult for them to build a relationship and trust towards R-R or other assisting organizations.

Although the number of Bulgarian women visiting R-R fell, their number on the streets of Prague did not. R-R tries to contact the women regularly and inform them about the organization's activities (after police raids, they often change location or “take walks”). We hope to be able to bring the women back to us and help them in their ordeal.

9. 12. 04
Zdroj: migrationonline.cz

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