Poverty Forces Women to Turn to Prostitution

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The "Hope and Help" organization reported that the amount of women forced to turn to prostitution as a means of income is increasing and the average age of the prostitutes are decreasing. The organization said that more young women are turning to prostitution to support themselves.

These conclusions were presented in a report entitled "On the particular features of prostitution in Armenia"–which was presented on August 14 at the Hope and Help organization’s center of the Armenian American Assembly in Yerevan. Financial support for this program came from the UN FPA.

Research was carried out on 175 women in Yerevan–Gyumri–Vanadzor and Kapan who were "street prostitutes". The main reasons forcing women to become prostitutes is poverty–and the absence of traditional male support (the primary reason for their absence is that the male population has emigrated out of Armenia). The head of the program and chairman of the Hope and Help non-government organization–Yenok Shatvorian–said that researchers witnessed prostitutes offering their services for a piece of sausage or 200-300 drams (around 50 cents). However–in Yerevan their services cost around $30 on average.

Most of the women that were questioned are married–but are forced to care for their children alone. Presently–there are not many underage prostitutes–but their numbers are growing. Unlike married women–young girls find themselves on the street by accident–after quarreling with their parents or getting caught up with the wrong people.

Many women are subjected to violence–however because what they do is illegal they can not defend themselves or ask for help from the authorities. One form of legalized violence is when prostitutes are forcibly checked for sexually transmitted diseases. According to Shatvorian–a specialist in venereal diseases–such measures do not prevent the spread of infection. Treatmen’s for most infections have to be paid for. Prostitutes also have to pay for medical examinations if they go to a doctor. Only 5 per cent of those questioned were well-informed about infections–including AIDS.

According to Shatvorian–it is necessary to increase their level of awareness so they can protect their health and their rights. Regarding the issue of legalizing prostitution–the Hope and Help organization is against it. "I believe that Armenia is too small for this and that we should look after our women and not turn them into prostitutes," said Shatvorian.

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