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Brothels have existed in Turkey since Ottoman times, and were tolerated by Ottoman rulers. During the first years of the Turkish Republic, state-run brothels were established as a way to control prostitution closely on all levels. Under the conservative Justice and Development Party AKP , though, the emphasis appears to lie more on stamping out activity many Turks view as a moral outrage. Upon entering a state-run brothel in Istanbul, men — women are not allowed to visit the closed-off, red-light district — have to hand over their cell phones, guns, knives and any objects that might be harmful to women.
The experiences of year-old Zeynep, a transgender woman who has been a sex worker for over 30 years, illustrate the dangers. But what can you do? She added that she would much rather work in a state-run brothel, but that her applications have been denied repeatedly. The numbers seem to back her up: according to a report by the Turkish think-tank International Strategic Research Organization, one woman has died nearly every day in Turkey in recent years as a result of domestic violence.
Government statistics report that murders of women increased by 1, percent between and , with nearly 1, killed in Estimated violence against transgender persons shows a similar trend toward increasing. The government, as yet, has not monitored or reported on violence against sex workers or transgender people, she added. I have to work more to be able to pay all my fines.
Healthcare could prove a further cost if the state-run brothels close, Berna continued. It was safe. But without a license, it costs a lot of money to go and see a doctor for a check-up. Berna cited personal reasons as why she was forced to give up her much-coveted spot in a state-run brothel.
Now it is impossible to return, she said. Their plight has won the sympathy of one of the security personnel monitoring the entrance to the district. Support Eurasianet : Help keep our journalism open to all, and influenced by none.