There are 50 brothels in Turkish-Occupied Cyprus, where prostitution is legal, AFP reported.
The women arrive in bunches to a Nicosia hospital, emerging from a white stretch limousine, AFP described. They are there for their monthly HIV test.
Besides the monthly checkup, however, the Turkish Cypriot authorities do not acknowledge that these women, foreign-born who live and worl on the premises, and who were admitted to Turkey on visas with occupations marked “hostess,” are often victims of sex trafficking. A foreign woman in June tried to escape from a fourth floor hospital window and broke a leg, AFP wrote. She thought she’d be working as a waitress, but panicked when she learned she would be selling sex.
Clubs have names such as Harem, Lipstick, and Sexy Lady, the AFP reported.
There were 1,168 such visas issued between April 2014 and January 2015, AFP reported, half to Moldovans and the rest to Moroccans, Ukrainians and women from central Asian countries.
Even though prostitution is legal, sex trafficking is not – but that, too, is only recent.
With pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, the local parliament in January 2014 approved a series of amendments outlawing human trafficking for sex.
The offense can carry a seven-year jail sentence.
Owners of such brothels are a powerful lobby, and influence the Turkish-Cypriot authorities, AFP noted. These places are a magnet for tourists.
Cabaret owners are a powerful lobby in a statelet dependent on alternative sources of revenues such as nightclubs and casinos, a magnet for tourists from Turkey where casinos are banned.
On the Greek-Cyprus side, the government abolished hostess visas in 2008, in an effort to combat sex trafficking.
Nonetheless, the country as a whole remains on the United States’ trafficking watch list