Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, was once little more than a pit stop on the great Silk Road. But today, as Kyrgyzstan’s only large city, Bishkek draws grass-roots tourism for its outdoor sports and is the pride and joy of the nation of Kyrgyzstan, the Pearl of Central Asia.
Outside this city, in the rural hinterlands, Kyrgyz traditions stigmatize prostitution but uphold other abuses. Bride Kidnapping, the practice that involves a suitor actually abducting his would-be bride, kicking and screaming, and whisking her away to a location where she is forced to marry him, is a Kyrgyz tradition.
In Bishkek, prostituted women are trafficked outside of nightclubs and hotels, not unlike any other capital city. While Eurasia.net reports that over 3500 women work as prostitutes in Bishkek, other unofficial estimates claim numbers upward of 2 times higher. The sex trade in Bishkek alone is estimated at $3 million, and every major newspaper features advertisements for sex services that makes Backpage.com seem modest. Surprisingly, many of those thousands of women are servicing an unlikely clientele.
The United States Military has maintained an air base, Manas, just on the outskirts of Bishkek since 2001. Manas has been a launching point for airstrikes into Afghanistan for the entire war. The recently elected Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan announced last November that the base would be closed for fear of further incursions into other nations by the U.S. Military. NGO’s have reported that hundreds of prostituted women, who make their means solely from U.S. Clientele, may lose their primary means of income.
Despite the official stance that U.S. Troops are prohibited from soliciting the service of prostituted women, evidence shows that the U.S. Military presence has caused a spike in the Bishkek economy. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) stated that prostitutes in Bishkek reported that their earnings have quadrupled over the last few years.
However, the most shocking part of trafficking in Bishkek is that the IWPR chronicles that 20 percent of the prostitutes are children. An alarming number of young girls, ages twelve to fourteen, are being sold to traffickers in the rural areas around Bishkek, some by their own parents. One sixteen-year-old girl describes her life of prostitution as primarily involving police officers and local officials, who entertain their important clients from out of town in mountain villages by providing them with her services as well as her friends’. Corruption in the government runs rampant, which is the only way that child prostitution can thrive in a region that has passed trafficking laws already.
Movements have emerged to legalize prostitution so that the trade may be regulated, but opponents point out that this will only empower corrupt police forces to abuse prostituted women by providing their services for free. The challenges presented by the highest levels of the judicial system being complicit, and a foreign military power inciting a prostitution boom, appear to be daunting. For real transformation of lives to begin, secrets must be uncovered, and truths must be declared.
- Pray that God would send laborers to Bishkek who would bring revival and reformation.
- Ask God to break in with the fear of the Lord on the corrupt government officials.
- Pray that all foreign military presence would obey the laws and directives of their home countries’ military and cease engaging in illegal actions involving prostitution.