Latviski English По-русски
Sunday 18.02.2018 | Name days: Kintija, Kora

MARTA Centre: sex clients sustain prostitution network in Latvia

(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUProstitution in Latvia is legal. Nearly anyone can be a sexual thrill-seeker or sex client and remain unpunished. Women who were forced into the life of prostitutes, on the other hand, are the ones who pay the price.

BNN spoke with MARTA Centre’s legal expert Zane Zvirgzdiņa to learn of the tricks and schemes recruiters use to lure women to live as prostitutes and what legalization aspect means for Latvia.

Prostitution is legal in Latvia

The lawyer explains that Prostitution Restriction Regulations are in force in Latvia. Those regulations were developed by the Cabinet of Ministers. Regulations do not prohibit prostitution as a whole. Instead the document introduces certain restrictions. «With that, as far as the state is concerned – prostitution is legal. Otherwise there would be no need to introduce restrictions,» explains MARTA Centre’s lawyer.

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a prostitute?

If prostitution is a legal service, one might ask ironically if prostitutes pay taxes and if they are registered as ‘self-employed’. When asked, the lawyer said no – prostitutes do not pay taxes. «The moment the state starts collecting taxes from prostitution, the state becomes a pimp, because the budget would thereby benefit from prostitution,» says lawyer Zvirgzdiņa, adding that prostitution itself is not illegal. Nevertheless, there are specific restrictions put in place by the Cabinet of Ministers.

«If we look at prostitution as a system, we have to understand that there are people involved in prostitution and sex clients. Without the latter, the system would not exist. The real situation is that as long as there is demand, there will be supply. One major problem in Latvia is that no one punishes sex clients,» says the legal expert of MARTA Centre.

The centre’s representative refrains from calling it a profession, backing her views with a rhetorical question: «Have you ever dreamed of becoming a prostitute when you were a child? Has any person ever said they would like their children to pick up this profession? Let’s not forget about the kinds of psychological and physical consequences this kind of activity can bring.»

Society’s impression of prostitutes – poor, uneducated, and have themselves to blame

There are many different articles and stories floating around in the public space. One such material was published by EDARTV three years ago. The story tells about prostitution in Rumbula. The description of the video says: «For some time now we’ve been planning on driving out for some girls. Now we’ve decided this day has come.»

Regulations established by the Cabinet of Ministers state that prostitution is allowed in an apartment owned or rented by the person. This means the video published by EDARTV in Rumbula shows illegal activities.

The lawyer says: «Commenting on the video from EDARTV, it should be mentioned – although it is important to talk about prostitution, it is far more important to do it in a proper way. I think the way the video demonstrated it all was nothing more than abuse of a single woman engaged in prostitution. On top of it all – she was visibly pregnant.»

She continues: «We can see in the video footage that the men make her strip and make fun of her, filming her striptease. This was nothing more than insulting and degrading prank.»

MARTA Centre considers this video the absurdity of life, when most women end up in prostitution because of poverty. The lawyer mentions that prostitution does not bring in a lot of money – it is a myth. Women engaged in prostitution often have no money to afford an apartment, let alone pay a fine for engaging in illegal activities.

It should be said that municipal police control compliance with regulations. Women engaged in prostitution are punished. The same cannot be said for their clients, however. The fine ranges from 350 to 700 euros, according to the Latvian Code of Administrative Violations.

«No imagine if a woman is forced to prostitute herself because of poverty. How is she supposed to afford paying a fine? Another unanswered question is how a fine supposed to help a woman escape prostitution. Sex clients, on the other hand, face no criminal liability, even though they are basically given the right to buy another human being and do with them what they please,» says Zvirgzdiņa.

The lawyer mentions that the men who filmed the video, even though it doesn’t show the act itself, can be considered sex clients in a broad sense – they purchased a sexual services. However, it is not possible to punish them because regulations do not provide any restrictions for buyers.

Even considering the fact that the video was taken and put on the internet, the ones responsible face no penalty, because the woman’s face is blurred out. «It cannot be considered pornography, because it is presented as a documentary. As I’ve already said, the idea is good, but the execution was poor,» says Zvirgzdiņa.

When your lover becomes your pimp

MARTA Centre has seen no cases when women decided to become prostitutes of their own will, although such cases may exist elsewhere in the world. «Freedom of choice exists when there are alternatives. Some women who come to MARTA Centre say they had been forced into prostitution at an early age,» says the lawyer.

When asked how those women ended up as prostitutes, the lawyer mentioned that there is always someone with an offer. Human trafficking is caused by the following factors – unemployment, weak social and economic structure, lack of education opportunities, cultural aspects, desire to have a better life abroad, violence against women and children, as well as armed conflicts.

One of the most popular ‘recruitment mechanisms’ is the so-called Lover boy or Boyfriend story. «This means women are lured into a life of prostitution by their life partners.»

Zvirgzdiņa continues: «A man takes care of a woman, provides her financially and at some point announces that money is needed, pushing the woman towards the idea of becoming a prostitute, saying that it can help improve their financial state. It is a very manipulative approach.» She calls this approach manipulative because women who did not have enough attention provided to them during their childhood often think ‘he takes care of me, he wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to me’. In the end, however, an absurd excuse is used – «she was the one who decided…»

MARTA Centre has had a case when police performed control measures by calling a phone number from an advertisement. A woman answered the phone, and police officers got the impression that nothing is wrong – it is normal, her choice. But the lawyer had a question to ask to police officers: «If a woman can be forced to engage in prostitution, is it not possible for a woman to be forced under threats to answer calls and say everything is fine?»

Specialists of the centre also mention cases when so-called ‘friends’ forced their girlfriends to engage in prostitution, and later making them involve other girls, saying that it’s the only way to break free.

Why won’t Latvia prohibit prostitution entirely?

Information posted on MARTA Centre’s website details that on 28 July 2016 the Cabinet of Ministers ordered Interior Affairs Ministry, along with Justice Ministry, Healthcare Ministry, Welfare Ministry, Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, Ombudsman’s Bureau and NGOs, among which was MARTA Centre, to develop a legislative draft for restriction of prostitution. The finished document – Prostitution Restriction Law – is set to come into force 1 January 2019.

It is important to emphasize the lawyers words that the existing regulations regarding restriction of prostitution do not comply with the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, because instead of cabinet requirements there has to be a law. It is a legal nuance all involved experts had agreed upon and had formed a group for the development of a legislative draft. However, regulations were never lifted because the work group decided that prohibition of prostitution in Latvia is an unsupportable measure, says the lawyer.

In addition, Zvirgzdiņa says MARTA Centre cannot turn to the Constitutional Court without a client. However, «women are understandably afraid of publicly disclosing their names».

She emphasizes that there are too many myths about supposed obstacles for the fight against human exploitation. «Police are afraid of prostitution becoming latent once responsibility is lifted from victims and punishments are applied to buyers. They are afraid of a situation akin to Sweden, Canada and other countries – when it is impossible to find a single victim. Moreover – prostitution cannot possibly become latent if there are sex clients. If they can find prostitution, police can use the same methods to identify victims and their abusers.»

MARTA Centre does not consider cooperation with police authorities to be particularly well-developed and organized. It is more the opposite – municipal police are the ones who put up the fines, and MARTA does not support this kind of practice.

At the end of the conversation, MARTA Centre’s representative mentioned that it is possible to tell if a woman has suffered violence from her partner based on visible injuries, poor health, and whether or not the woman depends on her partner financially. MARTA Centre urges women to seek help and to not remain silent.

MARTA Centre offers social worker, psychologist, psychotherapist, lawyer and other specialists’ consultations for people in difficult life situations. Anyone can apply by dialling 67378539 or writing to

Leave a reply

Week in Lithuania. Lithuania celebrating centennial of statehood

Leaders of European countries gathered in Vilnius on Friday, February 16, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of restored statehood, and festive events were taking place in many cities and towns of Lithuania.

BNN summary of the week: minister threatened with dismissal; ABLV Bank scandal

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Fight; Court; Problem; Decline; Commentary; Future; Proposal

SRS uncovered violations in 169 inspections at catering companies last year

In 2017, the State Revenue Service (SRS) performed a total of 989 inspections at 212 catering companies. This includes 182 thematic inspections for 125 taxpayers. Violations were uncovered in 169 inspections. The most common violation was manipulation with cash registers, according to information published by SRS.

Russian tourists often decide to celebrate International Women’s Day in Riga

To satisfy growing demand for bus tickets from Russia to Latvia for the week when 8 March is celebrated, Lux Express plans to organize additional buses between St Petersburg and Riga.

FCMC to investigate ABLV Bank again; no operational restrictions applied to the bank

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) has plans to perform an additional investigation at ABLV Bank in the next couple of weeks, says the commission’s manager Pēters Putniņš, adding that no operational restrictions have been applied to the bank so far.

Study: overall sense of happiness in Latvia is record-low

60% of Latvian residents feel happy. Although this is a good index, there has been a general decline of the sense of happiness, according to a study performed by Amigo mobile network operator and SKDS to assess the level of happiness of Latvian residents.

Raid reveals some taxi drivers in Riga do not have valid driver’s license

A raid was performed by the State Revenue Service and Riga Municipal Police to check taxi service providers in the capital. Authorities uncovered a total of 81 violations in 48 cases, BNN was informed by SRS.

Estonia sea ice crash: last missing body found

Nine days after a van with six people inside drove onto the ice of the Baltic Sea in south-western Estonia, the body of the last victim has been found.

Delna invites immediate investigation of claims about ABLV Bank’s money laundering schemes

The decision by US Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to apply sanctions against ABLV Bank for involvement in money laundering schemes and bribery of officials was not a surprise. It is a sign for acute need to continue improving investigative and supervisory institutions’ ability to prevent money laundering through Latvia, as noted by Delna – Society for Openness.

Estonian income tax should be simplified, parties believe

The existing income tax scheme in Estonia should be simplified, three parties in the Estonian Riigikogu find, but there are differences in opinion as to maintaining the current state budget income. Meanwhile, the opposition Reform Party has voiced backing for an annual tax-free income of 6,000 a year to every earner.

Baltics propose increasing member states’ contributions to EU budget after Brexit

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia invite European Union member states to increase contributions to the EU budget after 2020 in order to make sure available funds do not drop after UK’s exit.

Instagram obeys Russian internet censor to block content on corruption allegations

In the atmosphere of the March Russian presidential election, social network Instagram has submitted to the demands of Russia's internet censorship body and blocked in the country content with corruption claims voiced by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Teenager charged with U.S. school shooting has confessed

A day after a tragic school shooting in Florida, the U.S., where 17 people have been killed, the suspect 19-year-old Nicolas Cruz has confessed to police.

Snowfall expected for weekends in Latvia; sky to become clear again next week

On Friday, 16 February, weather in Latvia will be dictated by a small cyclone, which will approach the country from Sweden. Because of that, the sky will be cloudy and snowfall will come to many areas. The cyclone will not be strong. With that, wind speed will remain relatively slow, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

How will Lithuania look like in another 100 years?

In order to tell it, one needs to know the past and the presence. Yet the predicting how the centennial celebrations-engulfed Lithuania will look like in another hundred years is not easy at all even for political and business pundits.

Minister: Latvian authorities will perform an investigation about FinCEN report

Responsible Latvian institutions will perform an investigation in relation to the report from US Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). In this report, the institution accuses ABLV Bank of bribing Latvian officials, says Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Party calls for extraordinary meeting of Riga City Council’s Transport Committee

To invite officials to explain the illegal decision in regards to the mutual agreement between Rīgas satiksme’s and Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme’s, political party For Latvia’s Development urges opposition factions of Riga City Council to call an extraordinary meeting of the Transport Committee, as confirmed by the party.

Meteorologists warn about -25° C frost in Latvia in March

Global Forecast System predicts a possibility of -25° C frost in Latvia’s eastern parts at the beginning of March.

Latvian residents remain dissatisfied with their families’ financial state

For several years in a row the majority of Latvian residents remain dissatisfied with their families’ financial state, according to results of Baltic International Bank Latvian Barometer.

Latvia’s cosmetics market – 160 million euros

Latvia’s cosmetics market is worth approximately EUR 160 million. Similar to Europe, skin and hair care products are the most popular ones. The smallest market proportion is occupied by decorative cosmetics, according to data from Latvian Cosmetic Manufacturers Association (LCMA).

RB Rail CEO says interference «from above» has been in line with the law so far

We have seen interference «from above» in RB Rail’s activities. The law was not breached, however. With that, there was no need to report anything to law enforcement institutions, RB Rail CEO Baiba Rubesa told Ir magazine.

15 Estonians die in flu period from complications

The number flu patients in Estonia is currently increasing. So far during this year's flu season, 15 people have passed away with flue-related complications.

Economy Minister asked to fix increasing electricity bills; parties threaten with dismissal

Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens has to fix the mistakes that have caused electricity bills to increase, said chairman of Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia Egils Baldzēns in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Third of beer consumed in Estonia in 2017 bought in Vidzeme, Estonian factory breweries evaluate

Saku and A. Le Coq, two largest beer makers in Estonia have not published their exact sales numbers for the last year, but have been quick in stating that about one third of all beer drunk in Estonia was purchased in Latvia.

U.S. hit by another mass shooting at school

In the U.S., a high school has been attacked in the state of Florida, where gunshots have taken the lives of 17 people. Local police has detained a suspect – a 19-year-old man, who had been expelled from the same school.