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In 2017, brothels in Antep, Zonguldak and Konya as well as three registered houses in a brothel in Denizli have been closed for various reasons; and the licence of a brothel in Aydın province have not been renewed.
President of the Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association Kemal Ördek underlines that there was no intention to enhance the conditions and the rights of sex workers as laborers when there is an inspection at the brothels and that the brothels were not being closed with a demand-related but rather with a moralistic perspective.
Ördek also pointed out that the closures of the brothels caused the expansion of an un-registered sex industry.
A brothel that began operating in 1990 after opening ceremony held by the municipality, was later pulled down in May 2017, on the grounds that "it did befit Antep".
Before being torn down, Antep Governorship and Metropolitan Municipality had told the property owners of the brothel that "If they did not hand over property smoothly, they would have to consider other ways to utilize the estate of the brothel" and they had digging trucks load sand on the road leading to the door of the brothel.
Approximately 70-80 woman sex workers and 100 other staff were working in the brothel in Antep.
The Konya Akşehir Brothel in Konya province that had been operating for 45 years, was pulled down in October 2017 on the grounds that it was not resistant to earthquake.
31 woman sex workers were working in Akşehir Brothel.
Zonguldak Brothel in Zonguldak province in Black Sea region, that began operating in 1930, was shut down in September 2017 due to insanitary conditions.
Following the closure of the brothel, Zonguldak Province Security Director Metin Turanlı posted a message on his Twitter account reading "The End". Local media reported that Governor Ali Kaban, who had been appointed to a seat in Malatya province, had signed the decision to close down the brothel in the last minutes before his term of office was over.
Ördek responded as follows to the questions of bianet:
Which reasons were cited for the closures?
“Before mentioning reasons cited for the closure, it is important to point out whether the concerned authorities in the relevant provinces have mentioned any reason at all. In many provinces, the brothels are being closed down for arbitrary reasons. In many cases, no written notice is officially being served to the owners of the brothels or its managers at all.
This might be the most important information in such processes; that the registered sex workers are not being informed at any stage of this process as parties.
When asked for a reason, or the brothel is served a written notice, the authorities often simply point to some articles of the Code on Sexually Transmissible Diseases and Fight Against Prostitution.
In some cases, pretexts such as some women smoking outdoors or waiting customers in miniskirt may lead to the sealing of the brothels.
No justification was provided for the Gaziantep Brothel that was shut down this year. Many brothel owners stated that administrative and civilian authorities threatened them to hand over their brothels. The brothel was closed on the pretext that it “doesn’t suit Antep”. After the owner of brothel in Söke district in Aydın died, his son wasn’t permitted to take out a license due to “some issues with the public housing law”. Three brothels in Denizli were closed on the pretext that they didn’t pay the rent to the municipality. The brothel in Konya was closed on the pretext that it wasn’t earthquake resistant.
How many sex workers were left unemployed following the shut downs?
It is hard to speak of an exact number since license of some women working at these brothels weren’t revoked and they were transferred to other brothels in other provinces. However, a large number of registered sex workers had to go off the books since they had a permanent settlement or family. İllicit work grows with the closings of brothels. There are around 70-80 women who are reportedly registered just at Gaziantep Brothel. We may say that there are around 150 women combined with other cities who are directly affected by this situation.
Genelevler son 15 - 20 yıl içerisinde ciddi baskı altına girmiş durumda. Bu baskı, idari açıdan oralarda çalışan kadın seks işçilerinin emekçi olarak haklarının temini ve güvence altına alınması için olsa, şikayet edilmemesi gerekir. Ancak, ortaya çıkan baskı, genelevlerin son derece keyfi sebeplerle kapatılması yönünde.
What do these women do now?
Some of them have themselves transferred to other cities, and the others remained in their cities and were pushed to go off the books. Being forced to go off the books means increase in all sorts of abuses including violence and discrimination against these women.
Do other brothels face pressure? Are all brothels planned to be closed down?
The brothels have been facing heavy pressure over the last 15-20 years. If this pressure had aimed to ensure the rights of sex worker women, then there wouldn’t be anything to complain. However, this pressure aims to shut down the brothels in very arbitrary ways.
In your opinion, what is the purpose of closing the brothels?
As far as we are concerned, considering the sex industry, the brothels are attempted to not be an option and to be criminalized. At least the practices in the recent years confirm it. A moralist perspective rather than evidence based view is dominant, and this situation leads to rapid shut down of the brothels and to an increase in illicit work, which jeopardizes public health and safety of the sex worker women. (ÇT/DG/TK)
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