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Every day, a steady stream of women cross the border from Uzbekistan to Kyrgystan. Demure and well-covered, few would guess that they are prostitutes in search of better conditions.
They look like very religious girls," said rights activist Azimjan Askarov who has witnessed the traffic many times. They wear tight jeans and sweaters, their working clothes. The rise of prostitution in Uzbekistan has coincided with a severe economic crisis. Once they have joined the sex trade, Uzbek women are then attracted by the higher earnings and a more stable currency over the border in Kyrgyzstan.
For a night's work in Andijan, a large Uzbek regional centre, an Uzbek prostitute can earn to sums, between 1. Over the border in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, she could earn to soms, or 21 to 32 dollars, for the same amount of work. Money is not the only attraction. Girls have long been selling their bodies in both countries according to year-old prostitute Nazira from the Uzbek town of Khanabad. In Kyrgyzstan, people have a more accepting attitude towards prostitutes.
Captain Abdylda Erdolotov of the Jalalabad city police department estimates that around 20 per cent of all sex workers in the city are from Uzbekistan. Of course they don't admit to their real profession, their families think they are peddling goods at Kyrgyz markets," he said. Even in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbek prostitutes fear running into members of their country's diaspora, so they tend not to work on the streets, preferring saunas and hotels.
But life is not all rosy in Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek prostitutes are more vulnerable than their Kyrgyz counterparts, according to local pimp Manzura K. They can't charge local prostitutes with anything, but as the Uzbek girls are living here without registering, they can demand bribes from them," he said. Fear of exposure prevents Uzbek prostitutes from seeking treatment for venereal disease. Jalalabad now has one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Kyrgyzstan, according to the Centre for fighting AIDS.