The problem of growing prostitution is not a well-researched on the Western Balkan countries. The number of women who are actively involved in the prostitution is not known, although there are many guesses about the exact figure. For example according to the knowledge of the police in Serbia (and Montenegro) there are around 15 000 women and 1 500 men who are actively involved in prostitution. In Croatia by the information given by the Ministry of Inner Affairs to the Center for Women War Victims – ROSA in the last 10 years (1994 – 2005) there were registered 2826 prostitution offences while the assumption is that there are around 3500 involved in that business. There are even less information about so called passive prostitutes, although the presumption is that their number as at least twice bigger.
As far as the legislation is concerned, the only country of the former Yugoslavia that decriminalized prostitution is Slovenia in July 2003. According to this law the prostitutes cannot be arrested or punished if they do this job independently or without a pimp. Any form of pimping is still illegal because this model of decriminalization of prostitution does not mean legalization of pimping. For more information please see Act on Criminal Offences Against Public Order and Peace.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro the debates about prostitution are still ongoing. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there were some TV debates about the issue, lead by NGO Independent Bureau for Humanitarian Issues but there is still no draft of legislation and even no discussion about making the draft. Also, according to the research done by PRISM (one of the leading researching agencies in Bosnia) only 20 percent of citizens are for the legalization of prostitution . This opinion is also supported by EUPM (European Union Police Mission) leader in Bosnia, Mr. Vincenzo Coppola, who thinks that at this moment legalization of prostitution is not a good solution for Bosnia. On the other hand an US Embassy official in BiH in his interview with the BiH media claims that the education of BiH society will play a significant role in changing public opinion. Due to stereotypes, people, as well as the judges working on these offences do not view them as serious problems and trafficked victims are often considered prostitutes. But, it is foreseeable that public opinion will change and the public will come to realize that trafficking is not prostitution but organized crime. Also, according to the US Embassy official one of the most interesting things about Bosnia is that is the only country in Europe that gives a humanitarian visa to the victims of trafficking thus legalizing their status while in the country.
The situation is not much different in Serbia. There are still no laws regulating this question, but there are some initiatives to start discussing the drafting of such law. Slavoljub Veljkovic, the Chairman of the Association of the Night Clubs and Bars emphasizes the importance of legalizing the prostitution, and he also organized signing of a petition on this issue, which he sent to the Parliament. As he explained, with the adoption of this law the state budged would be richer for 2 millions Euros, while the prostitutes would get a secure jobs and social and health insurance .
In Podgorica, Montenegro women’s NGO Shelter Sigurna zenska kuca  is working on the initiative for the amending the current Penal Code in order to decriminalize the prostitution and adopt the law of punishing the clients and confiscation of the property of macros. (see below)
In Croatia there are two major streams of discussion of this question. The current government strongly opposes the legalization of prostitution, and that can be illustrated by the words of Vice Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor who stated that such draft will never be adopted as long as she is in the Government. Mr. Luka Madjeric, the Head of the government Office for Human Rights also belongs to this stream. In his interview for Vijesnik he stated that the legalization of prostitution would just lead to even bigger exploitation and trafficking of women. He also gives an example of Netherlands which has legalized prostitution with the explanation that the number of illegal migrants who work as prostitutes would be decreased. But the result was a total opposite of the predictions, because with legalization their number increased by 80 percent. Kresimir Sever from Independent Croatian Union emphasizes that the legalization will not stop the criminal associated with prostitution, nor will it protect women, because there will be more and more “black market” work. He also offers solution in drastic penalties for macros and engaging society in solving unemployment of prostitutes.
On the other hand, there were two initiatives for legalization of prostitution. One was from the former Minister of Police Lucin (in 2002) and the other one was from the Chairman of the Association of Trade Unions, Boris Kunst (in 2004), who finally last month submitted the draft law regulating prostitution to the Parliament. If the draft is adopted “it would be easier to reduce criminal, to prevent abuse of prostitutes, protect health of both providers and consumers of the services, and to break the chains of pimps and trafficking in women” says Kunst. The draft predicts high money fines for the prostitutes without permission issued by regional office for employment or medical permission and 150 000 kunas fine for macros that employ such prostitutes Everything would be strictly regulated and the prostitution services would be offered exclusively in authorized centers for prostitution whose work permit would be issued by a Regional Office for Economy. The center for prostitution could not be situated near schools and other educational establishments, children’s playgrounds, churches and cemeteries – Kunst explains. Also, the legalized brothels could not be marked in any way which would be offensive for public morale or nor they can advertise their offer. Macros and prostitutes can become managers of centers if they are not penalized and only adult prostitutes that obtain a working permission from the regional employment office together with a medical certificate, which has to be renewed every 15 days, could offer their services.
Bojana Genov, the coordinator of Women’s Network Croatia thinks that Kunst’s proposal is scandalous and disgraceful.
Well, luckily that proposal is completely unpromising because the Government and the opposition as well as the boards and associations involved in promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality have unanimously declared themselves against legalization.
Croatian NGOs which deal with this question mostly fight for decriminalization of women in prostitution, as well as punishing buyers of sexual services, but they are against legalization of the business. For example in Croatia there is a strong network of women’s organizations that deals with the issues of trafficking and prostitution. The network Petra, together with Women’s Network Croatia and Center for Women Victims of War Rosa, started a campaign to amend the Criminal Law, in order to decriminalize prostitutes and punish the buyers of sexual services. Their proposal was adopted at the Gender Equality Committee meeting on 12.05.2006, and is now proposed to the Parliament for adoption. Despite the support by Gender Equality Board, the initiative started by Women’s Network Croatia following Swedish model to start penalizing the men who use the services of the prostitutes did not pass in the Parliament..
Nela Pamukovic from the Center for Women Victims of War Rosa stated while discussing the numbers of identified victims of trafficking (2002- 8 victims, 2003 – 8 victims, 2004 – 19 victims and in 2005 - 6 victims) that that these numbers are not real and they are the reflection of “insufficient success in identification of victims.” She claims that one cannot talk about “forced” or “voluntary” prostitution, because in any case it implies negation of rights to dignity, equality, autonomy, psychological and physical health, and the right to life without violence.
As it can be seen from the previous text, there are still no regulations of prostitution in most of the Western Balkans countries although there are some ongoing debates. The number of prostitutes is also unknown and debatable. The most of the initiatives to change the existing legislation and to adopt new laws comes from the NGO sector. The future of these presented initiatives is yet to be determined.
Initiative for the amending the current Penal Code (in Serbian): 02_szk_brosura.pdf (2.07 Mb)
Shelter (Sigurna Zenska Kuca)
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
NGO network, Croatia
Center for Women Victims of War Rosa
http://www.durmitorcg.com/opsirnije.php?id=7792 published in Durmitor newspaper, on 21.9.2005
http://www.eupm.org/Clanci.asp?ID=777&lang=cro – published in official EUPM site, on 5.3.2006
http://www.nacional.hr/articles/view/3755/ published in Nacional newspaper, on 01.08.2003
http://www.plivazdravlje.hr/?section=arhiva&acat=x&cat=x&id=9670&show=1 published in official Pliva Zdravlje site, on 11.05.2005
http://www.sabor.hr/default.asp?mode=1&gl=200605220000001&jezik=1&sid= published in the site of Croatian Parliament on 12.5.2006
http://www.uradni-list.si/1/objava.jsp?urlid=200369&stevilka=3313 published in the site of Uradni list of Republic Slovenia.
http://www.vjesnik.hr/html/2006/07/03/Clanak.asp?r=tem&c=1, published in the Vjesnik newspaper on 3.7.2006.
http://www.zinfo.hr/hrvatski/stranice/izdavastvo/pressclipping/mjesec6/pc6-3.htm, Women's Information and Documentation Center Croatia, published on 11.6.2005
For more information check:
Web site about prevention of trafficking in Bosnia: official site of OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina - in English: www.oscebih.org/human_rights/trafficking.asp?d=1
Web site about legal framework regulating questions as gender equality and trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Website is in English