In Latvia, as in other post-Socialist countries, prostitution development was very closely connected with the period of economic transformations. Prostitution has spread along with the rapid increase and feminisation of poverty in Latvia, which has occurred against the background of a high level of unemployment.
Economic problems lead women to be dissatisfied with their place and role in society at a given time. There are several factors in this process - the idea that under a free market system one can trade everything, including traditional honour, respect and sexual inviolability, as long as somebody is ready to pay for it; and very popular trend - “everything that is not prohibited is allowed”. It is the high proportion of the “shadow economy” in Latvia’s GDP. - around 30%. By the other determinations from 16 to 40% (Rosenberg’s 2001). Along with these factors, the rapid spread of drug use among young people, as well as traditionally high levels of alcohol consumption also promotes prostitution in Latvia.

The prostitutes who where surveyed in Latvia said that they need money and a source of income. A look at the economic environment in which women choose prostitution as a source of income, is provided by data about standard of living in Latvia. An analytical evaluation of living conditions in Latvia was recently done on the basis of the study in 1994 and another in October 1999, and was run by the Latvian Central Statistical board (CSB) and the Norwegian Institute for Applied Social Research (CSP, 2001).
The overall level of welfare among Latvia’s residents is stable with some slight tendency upward. This is indicated in regular household budget studies that the CSB runs.
Despite the favourable macroeconomic indicators, like a rising of GDP indicator per capita from 934 Ls (1587USD) in 1995 to 1603 Ls (2725USD) in 1999, however, poverty data shows that it is becoming more widespread, and there is increasing inequality in Latvia.

Poverty in Latvia, per cent of all equivalent consumers


Latvia, in average

Source: CSP 2001:101, where the poverty threshold in 1999 was 53,97 Ls (92USD). The value full survival minimum “basket” of goods and services was 83,18 Ls (141USD) per month.

Between 1996 and May 2000, the registered unemployment rate in Latvia has ranged from 7,1 % to 10,1 %, according to the National Employment Service. In more detailed way situation is described in CSP labour force studies, which focus on the proportion of job seekers who are not working, as measured against all economically active residents. The proportion in November 1996 was 18,3 % and has declined gradually since then - since 1998 it was ranged between 13,8 % and 14,4 % (CSP, 2001:94).

Women in the age group from 20 to 24 were most active in looking for work in the survey period, and the proportion of women in this age who were looking for work ranged from 13,7 % to 15,8 %. That is a comparatively higher percentage than is found among middle-aged women. It is also true that there were high indicators in this area when it came to the parents of the younger women - those who are aged 40-49. This means that parents have comparatively fewer opportunities to support their children while they are studying or not working.
Among women who looked for work in 2000, nearly 19 % were 24 years old or younger, approximately one-half had no job experience, and 20 % had an elementary education or less (CSO/CSBL. 2001a:D-1, D-3).



In Soviet Latvia the prostitution exist in hidden way, others when street prostitution, which was impossible. Prostitutes usually found in bars, restaurants, hotels, where the personnel mediate their services and protect them. Society was not accepted prostitutes, although sex in return of vacations, career opportunities, clothes, and gifts was not seen as prostitution.

Latvia announced “new” independence, and after that the United Nations convention on discrimination against women was acceded.
The economy of new independent country was started general economic reform on principles of world market. Private initiatives start to be very popular; hundreds of new private businesses were established around the country. Prostitution start to grew up rapidly, because everything, including human body, came to bee see like business product.
Street prostitution, like phenomena start to be visible on the streets of Riga in the early 90’s. Sex bars and clubs were opened, they start advertise their services openly in mass media. The rapid growing of development of sex businesses was noted in summer 1992.

According to experts from the Latvian Centre for Gender Studies “GENDERS” (T. Kurova), there were between 10,000 and 15,000 prostitutes in Latvia in the period between 1996 and 1998.
Other experts have said that in Latvia there are actually as many as 35.000 prostitutes, and the number of 10.000-15.000 prostitutes work only in Riga (A.Vilks). This estimation is based on assumption that the number of sex workers in all country is roughly proportionate to overall population numbers.

Due to statistics of Narcotics Office of the Criminal Police Board of the National Police, there were between 2.500 and 3000 man and women involved in full-time prostitution in Latvia in 1999 and 2000. The Vice Squad, however, has said that the real number of commercial sex workers in Latvia is probably remarkably higher - nearly 9.000 prostitutes.

Women from small towns and rural territories who wish to improve their economic situation and for this purpose engage in prostitution normally go to capital. Usually they hide the fact of working in sex business from the relatives and friends. Also the number of potential clients of sex workers is visibly bigger in Riga, including foreigners.  Some women from Northern and North - Western Latvia go to the Estonian capital Tallinn to work in prostitution, because of more developed tourist business and bigger number of potential clients. This is become possible, cause visas are not required among inhabitants of Baltic States and all three capitals of the Baltic States are geographically comparatively close to one each other.

A lot of Latvian girls now are going for the working in sex business to the Western countries, and they are constantly replaced in Latvia by a new generations of local girls, as well as some women who arrives from other countries (Belarus, Russia, Ukraine) on the basis of temporary permits usually related with visiting relatives in Latvia



Statistics show that the average member of a household in Latvia in 1998 had access to 62 LS (105USD) per month; while in 1999 the figure was 65 Ls (111USD). The net average monthly wage of working people was 73 LS (124USD) in 1995, 97 LS (165USD) in 1998 and 103 Ls (175USD) in 1999 (CSBL, 2000)/ High-ranking government officials in Latvia, who receive money from the national budget, receive approximately half as much money as an average prostitute who works in foreign countries.
Sex workers who work exclusively in Latvia earn 2 or 3 times more then the average monthly wage, and in many cases they get two times more money than specialists with higher education.

When asked about their reasons for working in sex business, several CSW in addition to the ability to earn money spoke of satisfaction of curiosity. Experts have differing views about these secondary motivations. Due different recourses approximately 20% of prostitutes work in the business at least, in part, in order to satisfy their own sexual needs.
Only few women said that their relatives know what they are doing. Far more often the women tell their families that they were working as babysitters, hotel employees or secretaries abroad. The comparatively enormous amount of money which prostitutes earn is often spent on entertainment needs; perhaps this suggest that women who have trouble in finding self-affirmation need to find some sort of compensation.

The fact that retail turnover in Latvia has increased more rapidly then the income of working people, suggest that there is money in circulation, which is outside of the tax system. It also shows that there are some people who receive regular unlawful income. Some of this money is money that sex workers earn abroad, and it is basically split up half-and-half between the sex workers and those who run them in Latvia. The Vice Squad has said that approximately 100 women leave Latvia each month in order to work in prostitution. If one assumes that each of those women has a pimp or an “owner” and that the average sex worker work in the West for two months while earning 2500 to 3000 USD each month, then the result is that intermediaries in Latvia receive at least 100 000 USD each month.

These figures apply to the income derived from the sex workers who are abroad illegally. In fact there are many more prostitutes in foreign countries than those who travel regularly without violating residency requirement. There are many women who are working as sex workers in economically developed countries without legal residency status.
We cannot know how many of them are working for themselves and their foreign pimps, nor is there information about how many of them send money back to intermediaries in Latvia. Presumably, however, sex business in Latvia are interested in finding as many direct and permanent contracts with club and bar owners in other countries as possible, so as to limit the individual of sex workers and to beat the competition.

There are various economic crimes in the “shadow” economy in Latvia: smuggling, the sale of drugs, fraud, money laundering and modified forms or racketeering (Rosenberg’s, 2001).
The main reasons for the presence of unlawful work in Latvia is the fact that there are limited opportunities for legal work - there are only a limited number of jobs available, and young people have serious problems in terms of choice of jobs because their educational levels.
A major difference in income between lawful and unlawful business in modern-day Latvia suggest that the principle in all forms of organized crime are one and the same - those who do the work get enough to survive, those who organize it get all of the profits. The result is that there is a small group of people in Latvia with enormous resources on their disposal - these are the ones who direct the process of organized crime.

We can look at the income levels that the interviewed sex workers cited. A common street prostitute, for whom sex work is the main source of income, can earn up to 300 Ls (510USD) per month in Riga if she services 2 clients in a day. This excludes the lowest category of prostitutes - those who work at the train station and streets in order to get drugs or food. A woman who works intensively at a club can earn between 300 Ls (510USD) and 500 Ls (850USD) per month (5-7 clients per day).
Prostitutes who work only in Latvia tend to spend all of their money on everyday needs. Cigarettes can be seen as a luxury item, because they represent large line item in the budgets of sex workers. Women who work in Latvia can save up a bit of money only in the summer, when there are more clients, including foreigners.

Only those prostitutes who periodically work in foreign countries can hope to save money up for serious needs that exceed elementary survival requirements. If a prostitute works abroad as scheduled, does not avoid work, does not get carried away with alcohol and drugs and otherwise controls her behaviour, then she can earn around 2000-2500 Ls (3400-4250USD) per month, when servicing six or seven clients per day. It was only these sex workers who in survey talked about their future plans - saving up money to buy an apartment, to go to school or to start the business. The monthly income of sex workers varies from country to country, and it depends in large part on the amount of money that has to be paid to intermediaries. Most commonly the 2000-2500 Ls (3400-4250USD) represents one third of the money that a women has collected from the clients. This means that the pimp or club in Latvia who sent the girl abroad receives an equal sum and the last third is going to the club where she works.
Prostitution in Latvia developed in wide range of forms and kinds of services, such as club’s, hotel’s, massage saloon’s, sauna’s prostitution, individual prostitution, street prostitution, male prostitution, minors prostitution, prostitution abroad.


Nobody has tried to count up the possible number of individually working prostitutes in Latvia, because of very difficult access to this hidden group. We can say that it is not remarkable group of women.
The reasons are that individual prostitutes are less protected from aggressive clients when they working (street prostitutes have a pimp, bar prostitute - security); in most cases prostitutes who start to work independently in more or less short time began to use some intermediaries services, they could be taxi drivers, bartenders, metres d’hotel etc.
Its looks that mostly there are high-level sex workers, who have stabile and wealthy clients, can be more or less independent.


Three surveys can be used for the description of situation with minors in sex business in Latvia. A survey (Kurova, Zarina 1997) showed that nearly every fourth prostitute is younger then 18 years old. The peak of adolescent prostitution was in time of big economical changes in Latvia in the early 90s and in the mid-90s.
Adolescent prostitutes work mostly in parks, markets; on train station and they offer services for very small amount of money, often for doze of drug or even food (Vavere, Mozalevskis, 2000).

Published materials and articles in newspapers indicate that United States, Sweden, Denmark and other countries are countries of origin of the men who visit Latvia for sex tourism and often use minors.
The experts of other research (Vaivars, Fridrihsone 2000) have said that minor prostitutes, both male and female, between 13 and 16 years old almost always come from families in which the parents drank, in which poverty is the norm of life, children were not given any attention, are street children, or are drug addicts. There are also street children in Latvia, including some who do not attending school.


Club prostitution may be the most widespread form of prostitution in Latvia. Sex clubs prostitution usually involves services offered in club, but also sometimes provides those services in rented apartments or at the client home. Sex clubs are closely linked to the legal entertainment industry (casinos, striptease clubs, massage saloons etc).
The cost is usually no less then 15-20 Ls (25-35 USD) per hour. The sex worker usually gets only half of the payment. The rest of the money goes to intermediaries, and there are more of them, then in street prostitution. They use it for own profit, for financing the office (rent, phone bills etc), to pay for the driver, security services, sometimes provide bribes for policeman so that they warn the club owners about planned raid.

Club prostitution functions on the basis of specific structures, with various forms.
Some of them advertise themselves in classified advertisements magazines and newspapers and declare that hey are escort services. They usually have small office with telephone and some women (often former prostitute) who answer on phone calls and arrange the deals.
Prostitute can visit client at his home or provide sexual services in apartments, which are rented specially for this purpose. Clients are almost never serviced in the office.

Sex clubs usually have a car and car driver to bring sex workers to the client and pick up them at the agreed time. Very often clubs owners use for that purposes taxis, having with taxi companies some kind of informal agreements. Most club sex workers have a mobile phone for connection with pimp or madam and for using if they are in danger. It is some several ways in which sex clubs protect their workers. Some clubs have their own security guards; some have agreements with legal security companies.
The fact is that sex clubs turn a tidy profit even with all these expenditures. The average club has between 2 and 10 women, each of who can earn between 300 and 500 Ls each month (from 500 to 800 USD).
The sum depends on the number of clients and the social-economic background of them. Those clubs, which provide sexual services to foreigners and tourists, earn comparatively much more, so there is reason to believe that there is significant differentiation among various clubs in terms of income levels and the quality of services.


Street prostitution is most visible in capital of Latvia. Women involved in street prostitution can be divided into several levels:
Sex workers who work on the highways usually get less payment then those who work in traditional locations, but they also have to turn over some of their income to the pimp.
Prostitutes who work near Central railway station commonly receive only few dollars for the services - often just for applying drugs, or even for the doze of narcotics. Sometimes they paid with alcohol or drugs. Sex work at the markets provided in common for the food or alcohol.

Sex workers in traditional locations get the best income. It is usually 15 Ls (~22 USD) for hour, and if the service were provided in shorter time, prostitute usually get one-hour payment. This sum of money is shared with pimp - usually sex worker get 10 Ls (14 USD) and the pimp 5 (8 USD).
Street prostitution also exists in next biggest cities of Latvia - Daugavpils, Rezekne and Liepaja. In capital prostitutes work walking cross Chaka Street almost all along its length, in neighbourhoods of Pernavas and Grizinkalns streets, also Maskavas street.
On all the streets where sex workers offer services, there clear separation of “spheres of influence” to “our” location and “their” territory.

Pimps show the sex workers place to stand on the street, and the process is all the time “supported” by a pimp. Women, who were coming from other place to Riga with purpose of earning “quick” money cannot simply take up the place on the street and take the clients, cause it provokes immediate negative reaction not only from the pimp, but also from other sex workers, located in this place.
Pimping on the streets is totally common. Pimp is usually not visible on the streets, but he is all the time somewhere near. Sex workers usually take payment in advance and often give it to another girl in same location, sometimes directly to the pimp. Prostitutes working on the streets usually have mobile phones for the protection. They call the pimps, or sometimes security guards if they have some troubles with clients or they feel their selves in danger.
Women on the streets usually can avoid drunk, aggressive clients and clients with specific needs, the girls knows and sometimes write down car numbers of clients who are rough or aggressive.

Sex services are provided mostly in cars, parks, nearest buildings, in a yard, at clients home. Sex workers who act in this area usually wait their clients in several small cafes, bars. Sometimes bartenders act like a pimps and mediate contacts with the clients.
Sex workers on the streets are usually younger than other prostitutes, and for many women the street is the first plane to gain experience in sex work. On streets we can find women from Riga, but also those women, who come from small towns and rural areas around Latvia, both - sex workers who earn their income only by streetwalking and other, who are involved in this business only occasionally with purpose to earn a bit of extra money.
Women are usually involved in street prostitution through acquaintances, their friends, who are already on the streets.


The only study of the male prostitution in Latvia was implemented by Latvian Association for Safe Sex, working with HIV/AIDS issues with financial support of “Youth of Europe” and UNAIDS. Approximately 800 men who provide sexual services for money were surveyed and interviewed in 1997-1999 (Vavere, Mozalevskis 2000).
From the study results follows that male sex work reveals certain specifics about sex business. According to the study, main difference between female and male prostitution is that male sex work is much more hidden. Both service providers’ clients, nearly 70% of the cases, engage in heterosexual behaviour in their every day live.

The authors of this study divided up male prostitutes into two parts:

Men who provide sexual services for man

This is a lager and more varied group of prostitutes. The authors divided those sex workers by groups:
They are usually street children, children of unemployed parents, drug addicts and offer sex services for surviving. Many of them see clients as potential saviours who can help them and change their lives. Clients, in turn, are usually poor men with low income who pay between 0,5 of Ls (~1 USD) to 2 LS (~1,5 USD) for the services. Sometimes they feed the kids or provide them with accommodation for some days.
With time those kids become disappointed in those searches for “saviours” and begin to suffer from depression.
These young men have a stabile life, but sometimes without steady income. Many of then have no other job experience or skills.
Services provided by them take place in bars, parks, and toilets usually with intermediaries - pimp, advertising or in sex clubs.
The cost of services is between 5 Ls (~7 USD) and 15 Ls (22 USD) and they serve one-two clients in a week.
Those are young men who make attempts to improve their life conditions by searching, finding and using permanent clients. They start with those activities in age of 19-22. The potential sponsors are usually homosexual or bisexual men, often married. In most cases they are gay’s who are looking for other men, who can finance their needs, travel, education, provide well-paying job. Sometimes those guys become independent from the sponsor, sometimes they broke relation with men with the purpose to find new and richer.
receptions and other events in embassies, government institutions and businesses. The services not necessary involve payment, but relations and people met on these events can help in career movement. They usually in age 18-25, handsome and often well educated, sometimes with university degrees. The cost of services in average is from 100 Ls (145 USD) to 300 (435 USD).
They come from well situated or average-income families, end they deal with offering sexual services irregularly and in dependence of offers received. They have no problem with food or accommodation, their finance situation is generally stabile and they spend more money than they have available to them in home.
They are very careful to hide the fact of working as sex worker from others. Usually they are students; they charge 20 Ls (~30 USD) to 60 Ls (90 USD) from the clients for their services.
out wealthy and more or less well-known men. They purposefully try to involve the men in sexual activities, after that blackmailing them with the statement, that if the client doesn’t pay up, the young men will accuse him in pederasty and solicitation. The clients usually pay to keep the young’s men silence.

Men who provide services for women

Those are so named “gigolo’s”, who are very presentable with excellent manners, find in places were wealthy women spend their rest and time; those relations are often not sexual in nature. Some of those men try to find women who can “keep” them - paying for pleasures, clothes, apartments etc. This is done using the advertising and Internet. This is fairly large group of young men, often students and unemployed.

The study of Vavere and Mozalevskis shows that the incidence of male prostitution is on the rise from year to year. Some men consciously become involved in sex business in order to earn money for survival or for improving the level standards of their lives. Younger men sometimes become involved in prostitution because they are simply curious and interested in a process itself.

There are such an intermediaries in male sex work, but the role of them does not appear to be as great as in the case of female prostitution.


According to the Vice Squad, some 100 women and men depart Latvia each month to go to various European countries to work as prostitutes. The police tend to have only fragmentary information about what these people are actually doing abroad. It is usually only data about and from prostitutes who have been deported back to Latvia.

Due the survey, organized and implemented by Inna Zarina used in report to International Organization of Migration IOM  (“Trafficking in women and prostitution in the Baltic States: social and legal aspects” IOM 2001) 33 sex workers were questioned. 23 had experience of foreign work. Ten were surveyed in Latvia and ten in Netherlands.
According to sex workers, as well as several surveyed experts, the number of women who depart from Latvia without knowing that they might end up as prostitutes has declined since mid-90’s. Women either know or at least sense what they will be doing. The surveyed respondents all said that sex work in other countries was nothing more then work through which money could be earned - no other main arguments were mentioned by anyone.
In all of the countries to which women from Eastern Europe who wish to work as prostitutes have gone, they became involved in the same kinds of prostitution which had historically developed there.

In almost all the cases, sex workers are given information about employers or pimps while they are still in Latvia. The fee for this is either a specific sum (1 000 USD), or a share of money from each client. The person who sends the prostitutes to the West usually gets some money from the person who is interested in hiring women. Sometimes the sex worker herself makes the payment. Depending of the country and the type of work, the debt can be repaid in as little as one to three weeks.
Relatively small clubs and bars employ 6-10 girls as prostitutes. The sex workers, for example in Switzerland are mobile in the sense that they go from bar to bar every few weeks, with pimps helping the bar owners to handle this process. Sex workers also tend to travel not only within a country, but also from country to country with the help of the pimps.

Most of surveyed girls travelled legally and made an effort not to violate restrictions on residency so as not to damage their documents and to be able to go to country, where they work, repeatedly, or even regularly. Most of the sex workers said that the burden of working in a bar or club could be sustained physically for two months, while in the third month many girls feel very homesick and want to go home and relax. Some return to Latvia a week in advance.
When a women works in a bar, she average five or six clients a day. Working with a pimp at a bar, hotel or brothel, the number of clients is greater - between six and ten, or even more.

Street prostitutes work only with the pimps. Of the ten Latvian women who were interviewed in Netherlands, two were working on the streets. They too serviced clients in bars or other indoor spaces. Sex workers, who work with pimps, also tend to provide services to clients in hotels.
From ten sex workers who were interviewed in Holland eight were working at the “windows” - which was at that time a legal process in Netherlands. But only for people with legal residence and work permits from EU, Switzerland, Norway. Other women e.g. from Latvia cannot work in organised prostitution anymore (since Oct 2000). How much money a prostitute earns is entirely up to her. If a sex workers wants to work a lot - without any day off - then she can clear between 7 000 and 18 000 USD in month.

The likelihood of getting entangled with the police largely depends on the owner - the way which he organizes the work, and the extent to which his facility disturbs the neighbours. Women can find themselves in the clutches of the police for the same reasons that exist in home country, for instance, if they lose control of themselves, get drunk or use drugs.
According to the interviews, the prostitutes are very much afraid of getting caught by the local police. There are several reasons for this. One is deportation - the fact that the passport is then “damaged” is another, with the women not being allowed to go back to the western countries to work. Others reported that the police confiscate all the money that the prostitute has earned. Some sex workers said that local police usually don’t want to interact with foreign prostitutes, which basically leaves them at the mercy of the criminals.

All of the interviewed sex workers with experience of work in Western Europe said that girls who end up in the hands of traffickers usually find themselves in that situation because they have been stupid. The work is dangerous in the sense that a woman must never lose alertness, and she must never lose control over herself. This means never trusting unknown people, never getting drunk or using drugs, never turning over one’s documents to someone else, and never walking around alone. It’s much safer to work with other girl as companion - preferably one who is from your own country. Another safety measure was the requirement that someone in Latvia must to know where you are and what you are doing.
All of this is far more difficult for young girls who have less experience and law level of education. Education seems to be a particular importance - all the interviewed sex workers who were working with relative success abroad had no profession, but they did have a solid general education.
Nearly all of the prostitutes said that they had heard of women who were sold.

By Inna Zarina, (report to International Organization of Migration IOM “Trafficking in women and prostitution in the Baltic States: social and legal aspects” IOM 2001) the basic model here is that intermediary’s promises to women that he will find a job for her and then forwards her to others who prepare the travel documents, cover the costs, give information about employer and pocket money if necessary. This is most common among sex workers who are going to work for a three months - the maximum amount of time that a person from Latvia can reside in another country. This suggests that there are good contacts and agreements between traffickers in various countries.
Most commonly sex worker receives one-third of what she earns. In Germany, for example she pays one-third part to the club, where she works, another one-third part goes to the intermediary in Riga. It can also be that a pimp in the country of destination handles entire process, and in this case he receives two-thirds of all earned money.



Supported financially from Riga City Council, a Vice Squad of 15 officers was set up in April 1993. Despite certain shortcomings in the law, the Vice Squad worked to check out the documents of the prostitutes and to ensure that they underwent medical examination. The Vice Squad had a register of prostitutes, which listed approximately 2/3 of all sex workers in the mid-90’s, according to police experts. In April 1996 the financial support was withdrawn, and the Vice Squad was shut down in July 1997. Four people continued to do the work under the Narcotics Office of the Criminal police, but they were fairly circumscribed in terms of the work that they could do.

In November 1998 the Cabinet of Ministers adopted new regulations aimed a limiting prostitution, but these have had virtually no effect. Since March 2000 the law has provided for an administrative punishment for violating rules concerning the limitation of prostitution, but during the year from March 2000, administrative punishments were levied against only 79 sex workers. In 1999 there were 13 administrative cases involving pimping and one (Logos scandal) about involvement of minors in sexual activities. One criminal investigation was launched on the trafficking of women in 2000.
The laws were improved and the activities of the Vice squad were reinstated and expanded only after information about organized pedophilia in Latvia came to light. In May 2000 Parliament amended the criminal law to address the issue of involving minors in prostitution, adding Article 165’, which deals with the sending of an individual to be used sexually. In April 2000 the Cabinet of ministers adopted new regulations on limiting prostitution:

Accepted by the Cabinet of Ministers on 2 April 2001, Riga


1.    These regulations set out the order whereby the provision of sexual services with the intention of thereby receiving compensation (hereafter - prostitution) is to be limited and controlled.

2.    Engaging in prostitution shall be forbidden for minor persons and all persons who do not have a health card. A health card, the sample for which shall be approved by the minister of welfare, shall be issued by a certified dermatovenerologist upon an initial examination of the relevant individual.

3.    Local governments in territories with more than 20 000 residents shall specify locations at which physical persons who engage in prostitution (hereafter - prostitution) may offer sexual services or accept commissions for sexual services. Other local governments shall specify the said locations upon being asked to do so in writing by the National police.

4.    Prostitutes shall be forbidden to offer sexual services or accepting commissions for sexual services outside of the locations that are specified by local governments, or in an apartment or home which do not belong to the prostitute or with respect to which the prostitute has not concluded a rental agreement.

5.    Prostitutes shall be forbidden to gather in groups

5.1. In an apartment or home, which does not belong to the prostitute or the relevant client or with respect to which the prostitute or the client has not concluded a rental agreement
5.2. In any apartment or other space within which a minor person is present.
5.3. In any apartment or home where other residents of the said apartment or home object to the prostitute’s providing sexual services.

6.    Prostitutes shall be forbidden to gather in groups to offer and provide sexual services or to accept commissions for it.

7.     Each prostitute shall undergo a health examination upon a monthly basis. The extent of the said examination shall be specified in instructions that shall be approved by the minister of welfare. The health examinations shall be done by and relevant notations on the prostitute’s health card shall be made by a certified dermatovenerologist.

8.    Where a prostitute has been determined to be suffering from an illness or disorder that is included on a list that has been approved by the minister of welfare, the said prostitute shall be forbidden to engage in prostitution while treatment is being given and/or while medical or serological observations are being made. The said ban shall remain in effect until such time as the certified dermatovenerologist has determined that the prostitute is completely well.

9.    Persons in whose blood antibodies to the HIV virus have been specified or with respect to whom the diagnosis of AIDS has been determined shall thereafter be forbidden to engage in prostitution.

10.    Sexual services shall not be offered or advertised on the Internet, in the press and in other forms of mass media (except for publications of an erotic nature), not shall they be offered or advertised through the involvement of other persons.

11.    No activities in which a third person engages with the intent of promoting prostitution shall be permitted.

12.    A prostitute shall display the prostitute’s health card where asked to do so by a client.

13.    A dermatovenerologist who has issued one or more prostitutes shall once a month submit to the commander of the National police a list containing the registration numbers of all health cards that have been issued.

14.    Upon receiving a written request from the National police, a medical employee who has issued a health card, has examined a prostitute or has assigned treatment to a prostitute shall provide the National police with the requested information within 3 working days. The National Police may issue similar requests to the national register of sexually transmitted and contagious skin diseases, the Latvian Infectology Centre (the AIDS Division), other medical institution, which specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted disease, and the Centre for AIDS prevention.

15.    The implementation of the terms of these regulations shall be supervised by officials as assigned to do so by the commander of the National Police, doing so in collaboration with the relevant local governments/. The Inspectorate for Control over the Quality of Medical Care and Expert Analysis of Working Ability shall supervise the order whereby prostitutes must undergo health examinations.

16.    Where an individual fails to observe the terms of these regulations, the said person shall be held liable in accordance with the procedure referred to in the law.

17.    Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 427 of 4 of November 1998, “Regulations to Limit Prostitution” (Latvijas Vestnesis, No 336, 1998) shall hereby be declared null and void.

The Prime Minister                           Andris Berzins
The Interior Minister                         Mareks Seglins

A Vice Squad expert feels that the new regulations will really be a tool in limiting prostitution only if a network of Vice Squad officers is organized in all of Latvia.
The police closely link prostitution with a deterioration of the situation with criminals in Latvia, especially in terms of many latent crimes. The crimes that prostitutes commit most often are theft against clients, providing information to other thieves about a client’s apartment, which can be burgled. Victims, fearing for their reputation and family scandals, in general keep quiet or lie to the police about what has happened.
The new rules on prostitution say that in local government territories that have more then 20 000 residents, local governments must specify locations at which commercial sex workers can ply their trade. The restrictions also seem to indicate that the prostitute can provide services in her own apartment or in the apartment of a client, but only if there are no minors in the facilities and if others who live in the relevant apartment or home, do not object.

The Interior Ministry of Latvia and other ministries in 2000 elaborated a programme to limit and control prostitution. Elements in the programme include:

At the moment only one (1) from the elements 1, 4 and 11 in this program, which require financing, were implemented while elements 12 and 13 were put in place by the end of 2001.
Regulation about prostitution have always said that sex workers must have a health card, but the fact is that no more than 200 sex workers have had the document since the law become into the force. That is a tiny amount when compared to the number of active prostitutes in Latvia.

By people from NGO’s, providing outreach work with street prostitutes, sex workers have different views about health card system and new regulations. Mostly they approve that they don’t need this card, cause already regularly visit their own doctor for tests, consultation and treatment. Most said, that card is needed for displaying to police officers and clients never ask to see it. Main argument against health card system is that sex workers afraid of being registered in some database where information is stored and that it is not so confidential and secure like it should be. The card has medical information, identification number, age and photo of sex worker. For sex workers this was in many cases one of the reasons not apply the health card.



At the moment there is only the one non-governmental organization in Latvia that is directly working with sex workers as a risk group. The Latvian Gender Problem Centre "GENDERS" is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1994, in Riga, Latvia. One of the main aims of "GENDERS" are to develop preventive strategy and measures against AIDS/STD among prostitutes, trafficking in women, lobbying policy makers for improving legal situation for women. In all activities, from management training and organizational development to mobilization on a grassroots level, "GENDERS" recognized the differences between women and men. Gender differences are used as a tool for change and for constructive, efficient, quality improvement. "GENDERS" influent men and women at all levels in society, governmental, non-governmental and the business sectors, to look through gender glasses. "GENDERS" has also elaborated and initiated new forms of civil society co-operation with these sectors. Since the beginning, "GENDERS" has developed non-traditional, forefront methods, which successfully have been implemented in many national and international projects on gender issues. Communication and information creating public awareness of the existence of prostitution and trafficking is also a part of the centres aims. Then "GENDERS" also publishes leaflets and articles sometimes aiming at the public, sometimes aiming specific at the prostitutes - e.g. information on safe sex.

The aims and objectives of "GENDERS" are:

The main projects among sex workers, implemented in GENDERS centre, were:

Project focusing on cross border prostitution and trafficking in women - November 2000

 Financially supported by the Centre for Gender Equality in Norway and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway. One aim of this project is to raise the awareness and the knowledge of cross border in Norway. The financial support was suggested to those NGOs, which are dealing with information work directed at girls and women at risk

Project "MoonLight. Safe prostitution"  November 1999 - October 2002

This project is carrying out in partnership with TAMPEP International Foundation (Holland)  and the Latvian Gender Problem Centre "GENDERS" (Latvia). The Matra Programme Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs financially supports this project. The project “Moonlight” combines research and prevention work, actively involving sex workers. It is a model of cooperation between NGO’s and state institutions.

Target group:
Female sex workers who are operating in Riga, Jurmala and Jelgava. They work mainly on the streets, partly in night and sex clubs, hotels, bars and escort services.

Project objectives are:
to reduce risk of HIV/STD infection among female sex workers in Latvia
to introduce and develop an effective and realistic model of multifaceted prevention strategies based on non-discriminatory policies and to promote these prevention policies in co-operation with local governmental and non-governmental health and social services
to create a strong commitment for promotion of prostitution policies based on principle of treating sex workers with dignity, respect and confidentiality and to promote their health, safety and civil rights
to develop a common quality standards of HIV/STD intervention among sex workers which could be applied in other countries of the region
to support the creation of basic community projects by directly involving sex workers in the activities of the intervention strategies

Project "LightHouse - Shelter for prostitutes and women victims of trafficking"   August 2000 - February 2001

This project was carried out by "GENDERS" and financially supported by AIDS Foundation, Foundation Fondsenwervingsacties Volksgezondheid and Queen Juliana Foundation. The aim of contribution was towards the costs of reconstruction & renovation and internal design & equipping of the First Shelter. A variety of services will be offered in women's refuge: informational service, educational service, and social service, medical and psychological service, legal assistance. The main purpose of Shelter is to support, protect, and treat the victims of trafficking.

First Shelter in Riga, Latvia

The aims of the refuge are to support, protect and treat the victims of trafficking and prostitutes.
A variety of services already offered by Latvian Gender Problem Center "GENDERS" in a refuge such as:

Informational service.  Here women can receive all possible information about human rights, the social system as it pertains to women in Latvia, publishing, printing and distributing booklets, organizing public campaigns, co-operation with mass media and government authorities

Educational service (Library & Seminar room). Here we provide lectures on health and gender issues both on site and I schools, holding seminars and training courses on women's rights and reproductive health and current threats as trafficking and violence against women

Social service (Refuge meeting room). Here the professionals of "GENDERS" and other institutions provide social support for target group such as young women, single mothers, victims of trafficking and violence, sex workers, HIV-positive people and their relatives.

Medical service (Doctor's office & med. nurse's room). Here medical specialists provide consultations and medical examinations including professionals such as gynecologist and dermato-venerologist. Their service will be available for victims of family violence, sex workers, victims of trafficking and sexual harassment. Family physician services for general health evaluation also are available here.

Psychological service (Consultation room). Here we provide psychologist consultations including diagnosis and practical psychological methods for helping individuals as well as a group therapy. Professionally trained moderators will led psychological service.

Short-term housing service (Refuge room & Refuge kitchen). Here we provide temporary bed and board for victims of trafficking. (Search funding)

Administrative activities (Head office). Here is the heart of the Latvian Gender Problem Center "GENDERS". The main activity of "GENDERS" is carried out here. It is the general co-ordination and international network, projects accounting, co-ordination and implementation, data analysis and evaluation, report preparation, printing and distribution is carried out from this office.

Unfortunately lack of financial resources, endless promises of local city government and AIDS Prevention Program to support idea and proper functioning of the shelter stay just promises and it  the sustainability of the shelters project
is constantly damaged.


The extent for trafficking and the reasons for it

By doctor Tatiana Kurova, director of “Gender” Centre economical and political changes over the past decade have created extreme financial hardship in Latvian Republic, particularly for women.
These difficulties have resulted in dramatic increase in the number of women and girls in the sex work industry, either voluntary or against their will. Some are illegal foreign immigrants fleeing hardship and poverty in search of a better life; others are the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Throughout the newly independent democratic Republic of Latvia - there are an alarming lack of awareness about the very real problem of trafficking in Human Beings. The most developed kind of human trade in Latvia is trafficking in women and girls where they get tricked into the forced sex-trade business. This illegal activity makes one of the most dynamic and profitable crimes in Latvia.

The geographical position of Latvia, close vicinity to Scandinavian countries and the existence of wide trade connections with these countries and other Western countries make ideal conditions for a creation and expansion of a big prostitution market. Latvia in the same time is a sending, receiving and transit country for sex workers from various former soviet bloc countries. Thought there is no special official statistic on it - the personnel of the NGOs, social and outreach workers, medical doctors and psychologists actually state the increasing number of persons requiring the help in this field. The same tendency was experienced by GENDERS: after the year 1999 (when during the 3 month of hot-line action were got over 140 calls from persons - victims of trafficking or needed the information on this issue) - for the present period - the Centre offers the help and assistance for much bigger number of persons.

There are also increasing the number of women getting deported from foreign countries for reason of illegal prostitution abroad.
One of the most popular ways to engage somebody into trafficking in Latvia - to take out the advertisement promising the lucrative jobs as waitresses, models, nannies, dancers, escort or agriculture workers when as a result many persons arrive just to find themselves the victims of the modern slave trade. Lately the most popular countries of destination for Latvian inhabitants become Denmark, Spain, and Germany.

The primary reason why Latvian inhabitants choose to migrate - is extremely poor economic situation in Latvia (by the estimation of World Bank - the level of absolute poverty in Latvia is 7%, what is very high). But as it’s said in the old slogan of the Swedish women’s movement of the 1970s - “The personal - is political”. The wide spread of violence against human beings - is clearly political problem in Latvia. The most vulnerable group as potential victims of trafficking makes here countryside population, young women and Russian minorities (there are 28% of ethnic Russians and 38% - linguistic of the total population of Latvia).

The case is that medium of the Russian language is reducing, Russian schools get closed what limits the further opportunities of this group for development and high education, which besides all is very expensive.  There is also very high unemployment in Latvia. Women suffer very strong discrimination - they are less welcome to the good-paid and “important’ positions within firms and institutions; they are less paid for the same work with men. There are also very strict demands for the employee in Latvia: it must be in posses of special “Latvian language knowledge document” if the native language is other than Latvian. For many professions there are obligatory required the Latvian citizenship while 25% of total population in Latvia have no citizenship but the very unique in the world practice status of “Aliens of Latvia”. More than a half of stateless makes the Russian minority of Latvia. That all reduces very much the chance to get employment for women from minorities. The group of Russian-speaking minority may also have less access to the public information on the problem of trafficking since for the present only 25% of the air-time could be given in other than Latvian language.

Besides all mentioned above - the lack of basic legal education of population especially in the country-side and among the minorities, the expensiveness of the juridical assistance and non-stableness of law system makes easier for traffickers to deceive the person and violate it’s human rights. Inhabitants may not know how to check if the firm or agency promising the job is legally registered, have the right license or how should be the Contract made.
Woman may also dream to migrate hoping to marry good educated man since there also exists nationally spread very alarming problem of alcoholism and drug-use among male population who may hardly create and keep normal family life and support it financially.

The stateless population bears the big restrictions to get a land and is excluded of the political life. Thus they get no strong connection with the Republic of Latvia and the politics of the State give them no choice but to migrate searching for better opportunities to study, earn the money for them, their parents and children or make a family.

Bearing the high unemployment, the poor economy, high criminality, corruption, the lack of juridical and administration system of dealing with problem of trafficking and feeling despair of the poverty and having no hope for changes inhabitants of Latvia tend to be trusting and confident that all listed as employment, travel, marriage or model agencies are legal, honest and reputable. Unfortunately that is not a case. Well-organized Mafia which may be also powered by authorities take an advantage of the situation promising the inhabitants of Latvia opportunity to make high salaries, travel to other countries and be able to send money home to family members but instead throwing them for a life of prostitution, violence, sexual abuse and virtual slavery.

For the moment the number of victims of trafficking is still increasing and the Latvian society with its big social transformation processes has not yet elaborated and created models for support and civic approach of these groups. Though there were worked out the legislation supposed to combat the trafficking and punish the offenders - no case of trafficking reached the court. In Latvia there is no comprehensive state sponsored support system for victims of crime, including those for victims of trafficking. NGOs receive limited or no state or local government funding.
The problem of trafficking has been escalating during recent years and there is little experience and skills in trafficking prevention among the target groups and educational approaches in Latvia.

Legal situation

Before the year 2000 the Latvian legislation base did not specify the trafficking as the separate kind of crime. In May 2000 there were adopted the first anti-trafficking article (№ 165(1) in the Criminal Law criminalizing the sending of human beings to the foreign country for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Such activities, depending on whether it was committed for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation against the person are punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years (against minors - for up to15 years).

Latvia is also the member of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in persons and of the Exploitation of the prostitution of others of the year 1949. In accordance to this Convention there are also articles in the National legislation concerning such punishable activities as trade of human beings and exploitation of prostitution by others.   

The Latvian Criminal Law also criminalizes deprivation of liberty, kidnapping, compelling people to engage in prostitution (article №164). Concerning prostitution Latvia follows the regulation policy with the help of adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers in the year 1998 Regulations on the restriction of prostitution. According to that the sex worker is required to be in posses of “health card” and offer their services in the specially determined by the local authorities places. Since the year 1999 by the new Criminal Law was increased the punishment for the pimping and presently there is supposed the punishment up to 8 years of imprisonment. Victims of trafficking may submit a civil claim if they have suffered the losses due to the crime and want to demand compensation. Since known none of victims have made use of existing law.

Due to its status as a sender country Latvia has not considered granting of the residence permit to non-national women - victims of trafficking for testifying against traffickers. Latvia has lately increased the number of police officers of the State Police Drug Enforcement Bureau's Vice police department who works on such crimes as compelling persons to engage in prostitution and trafficking in human beings.

Anti-trafficking initiatives in Latvia

Presently there are acting some initiatives towards prevention of trafficking in Latvia. It is among others - The Project for the Prevention of Adolescent Trafficking in Latvia (PPAT-Latvia). PPAT is a two-year project funded by UNIFEM, the trafficking prevention program to be implemented nationally in the Baltic State of Latvia over a two-year period. GENDERS is one of the three project partners implementing this project. The lead organization is the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) The goal of the project is to prevent the trafficking of adolescents in Latvia, to increase the awareness of human trafficking and forced labour among a significant number of adolescents aged 14-25 years in Latvia over two years, to increase the awareness of human trafficking and forced labour among adolescent sex workers aged 25 or younger in Latvia over two years, to increase the capacity of NGO's and government officials in Latvia to prevent human trafficking and forced labour.

IOM bureau in Riga initiative Prevention of Trafficking Women in the Baltic Countries campaign (1 October 2000 - 1 October 2001) contributes to international joint efforts to counter the trafficking of women. The purpose of the project is to increase the awareness of the emerging problems of trafficking in women among relevant authorities and NGOs in the Baltic States, and to discourage and prevent future trafficking, especially from the Baltic region to EU countries.
The IOM Project Prevention of Trafficking in Women in the Baltic Countries II is a logical continuation and is aims to widely disseminate research results and targeted practical information to potential trafficking victims, as well as to increase the administrative capacity of the Baltic States to tackle and prevent trafficking. The Seminar “Trafficking in women in the Baltic States: challenges and remedies”, was also organized by the IOM bureau in Riga in March 2001.
Soros Foundation in Latvia booklet  “Work abroad” of the series “Know your rights” prepared by the specialists of the Latvian Gender Problem Centre - was published in the end of year 2002 contributing to the increasing of the knowledge of population of Latvia on the basic legal aspects of the work abroad.
There were also Seminars “Combating and control of prostitution” and “Cooperation among Criminal Police, law enforcement institutions and NGOs for combating the sexual violence” organized by the Chief Criminal Police Department of State Police; giving it’s input in the awareness raising on the legal aspect of trafficking in human beings and phenomenon of prostitution.

The representatives of the Latvian Gender Problem Centre recently organized seminars and participated very actively in the local and International Conferences making the problem of trafficking in Latvia visible on the International Stage, shared it’s experience, established new contacts and gave it’s inputs to the following Seminars and Conferences: the Seminar ”Violence Against Young Women in Europe” organized by the Council of Europe at The European Youth Centre Budapest; General Assembly of the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG); The First Baltic Sea Area NGO Forum  in Lubeck, Germany; The official Meeting at Riga Municipality - Round Table; Women & Democracy, Reykjavik-Vilnius held in Vilnius, Lithuania; Working Group meetings of A Cabinet of Ministers of Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Latvia; Seminar “Trafficking in women in the Baltic States: challenges and remedies” organized by the IOM bureau in Riga. 
There were also the booklets “Be smart - be safe” disseminated by the USA Embassy in Latvia aiming the prevention of trafficking and giving the recommendations to the persons preparing to search for work abroad.

The key areas of concern and suggested strategies

There exists the real need to make the articles of the Criminal Law of Latvia more clearly stating the meaning of trafficking crime, the organizers as physical or legal persons, identifying the illegal acts, etc. One of the strongest reasons why victims of trafficking report to the police on the crimes so rare - is the insecurity feeling, fear that them and their families will not be guaranteed the protection from the State Police. Thus the rights of victims of trafficking or witnesses to special procedural protection if they testify in criminal cases should be better worked out and defended.

The Victim compensation and Support State fund must be established. To battle the existing situation of trafficking in Latvia there should be the strong cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, Office of the Prosecutor of General, Ministry of Justice, High Court, State Police, Interpol and NGOs. Also the electronically equipment of those institutions would allow the strongest network cooperation. The practice shows that victims of trafficking are more likely to turn for help to the non-governmental organizations, feeling thus safer to get the unbiased attitude. This fact should be admitted by the Authorities of Latvia and functions implemented by NGOs respected and supported.

The success in combating trafficking in human beings in Latvia depends a lot on active prosecution policy of traffickers, cooperation of state Institutions and NGOs working in this field, necessary funding for supporting the informative and public educational activities, the recognition of the existing of human rights violation towards national minorities and discrimination of women in Latvia.

What NGOs can do - is to develop programs, projects, activities that address: