Saakashvili-encouraged sex-tourism in Gonio (Adjara, Georgia)

Saakashvili government keeping blind eye on sex-industry  promotion in Adjara, which became “Sex-tourism haven” for Turkish citizens.

Eteri Turadze,
Newspaper “Batumelebi”.

Original article on Georgian
translated by Solomon Ternaleli

Information for foreigners: Gonio, village in Adjara, Black Seaside region of Georgia. Gonio has around 1,100 inhabitants and was a separate village until Saakashvili government merged it with capital of Adjara – Batumi. Such merger usually results in better infrastructure development of villages, but at the same time, with lost of self-regulation and lots of nearly criminal actions against private property rights of villagers. Many international organizations consider such move of Saakashvili government as principle of recentralization , which de-facto contradicts de-jure proclaimed decentralization strategy.


They say they only serve the customers of Turkish nationality. There are about 500 girls from Central Asia, which work as Sex-workers in hotels in Gonio (Adjara, Georgia). Around 27 brothels are masked under the names of hotels and café.

There is collective letter kept at Gonio local administration, signed by 450 villagers which protest creation of sex-tourism place in Gonio. This letter has been directed to nearly anybody in Georgiangovernment, including the President, but nobody has ever replied, nobody seems concerned.

In the preparation of the article “Batumelebi” has recorded around 40 respondents – publicly or anonymously,including the ‘hotels’ owners, managers of cafes, sex-workers, police and taxi drivers.

Women from Central Asian countries

Women categorically refused to open talks with reporters from «Batumelebi». That, perhaps, is not allowed. They have their chiefs, i.e., those women, who had brought them to Georgia. Locals in Gonio think the girls are brought by their compatriots, mainly from poor families in Central Asian villages. Most of the girls speak only their native language.

“Here they take pictures, as if they work as cleaners in families, but in reality they become prostitutes,” – says about them M.G, local villager.

Whether girls from Central Asian countries are forced to work here? Batumelebi couldn’t find out facts that their passports are taken away from them. What can be said for sure that those girls do have financial «responsibility» against their «employers», upon arrival they pay around 700 USD for trip and 5,000 USD for their «employment». After that the agreement how to share the income is negotiated between them and employer.

Sex-workers rate us usually 150 GEL (around $90), discounts are possible. Some of them say that they wouldn’t engage with Georgian man even for 2-3 times more payment.

«No, I only go with Turks. I have my own clientele» – is heard in one of the secret recording.

Than «hotel’s» owner finds such solution for Georgian client:

–          If you have you own woman, bring her and I let you in the room. You see, all my girls are busy for the moment…

Not long time ago a tragic even happened in Gonio: in one of the house rented for sex-workers one of the girls has committed suicide – she was found hanged up. Some in Gonio say she was first killed and then hanged up to mimic a suicide. Investigation is not yet over. Batumi municipality has buried a victim as abandoned deceased. After that «owner» of that girl, Turkish citizen has left Gonio immediately. Neighbors say, since then they have not seen other girls in that house either.

According to Georgian legislation, if the foreign citizen is dead in Georgia, Police should notify Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which then notifies corresponding embassy, which then contacts the family of deceased.

But why Batumi municipality has buried the dead girl as abandoned one? One possible reason could have been that if the person’s passport was not found, then it could have been difficult to find out who she was! But in such case, it would have been a clear case that police has buried a victim of trafficking! In Adjara Police Department Batumelebi journalist was told that the dead girl was citizen of Kirgizstan and her parents had no means to transport the body, that’s why she was buried in Adjara.

 photo: village Gonio


Gonio citizens

Everything in the dusty village road changes with evening – many trailers turn from the highway to beach. Drivers stop trucks at so-called Cafes, which are illuminated by sharp color backlit, then a taxi service starts – girls are coming on taxis. From all cafes one can hear a voice of Turkish music. Brothels, basically, are around Gonio School – the upper and lower sides of the highway.

Local resident said, said that as soon as sun goes down, local women, regardless of age, try not staying outdoor.

“Men are so drunk that touch and abuse any woman they would see. It is difficult to watch this humiliation. If one gets confronted to Turks, then Police would take you in jail, and there are very strict sentences for abusing foreign citizen.

Turning Gonio in sex-village also alienated neighbors to each other. A. M. Said that many people do not talk with each other. Those who refused to open a brothel in his house, now realizes that if it continued, he should say Goodbye to the tourists, which means they fail and banks would sell their houses. However, the ones who converted hotels to brothels are on «safe side»!

M.M says and others also confirm that Guguli Bakuridze and Valodia Gogitidze have leased their houses cause of bank loan. We couldn’t get in touch with these people, their neighbors say that they had to rent a house in Batumi and move their for living. In the same district Givi Bakuridze also leases his house. These are the brothel-converted properties which «Batumelebi» has photographed secretly.

Gonio citizens say that for the moment 27 facilities are engaged in sex-tourism service.

Role of the government in Sex-industry development

Immediately upon Gonio had first elements of Sex-tourism zone, 450 local citizens have signed collective appeal and handed it over to Police. Police official respond was that they had no right to engage!

Same letter then was directed to Batumi Mayor, which again forwarded it to Gonio police, which again answered the same answer as before! The local youth have complained to Levan Varshalomidze [Adjara Prime Minister, age 40, close friend of Mikheil Saakashvili who made him irreplaceable first man in Adjara – S.T.]. Varshalomidze’s response to them – «So what? Why not you also get fun? »

Then Gonio citizens have sent the letter to Parliament Speaker. David Bakradze has forwarded citizens’ letter again to Gonio Police! The later decision was to apply to President Saakashvili, and again the letter made that useless «trip» back to Gonio Police!

Hoewever, the last letter which returned to Police from Saakashvili’s chancellery, ended with quite different outcome! – Gonio Police came to activists of that collective letter and plainly warned then – «never ever dare to write complains in future,]guys!» [See the difference?! – S.T.]

Now people in Gonio tell this story in very depressed mood and know that nothing will ever change. They say that opening 27 brothels in a small village was not a coincidence, but decision of Georgian supreme leadership themselves!

Georgian law
For years Georgian police is famous for actively listening telephone conversation of thousands of citizens as well as using hidden video frequently in practice. But for some reasons such skills and technical capacities are still not used regarding those «hotels» profile or to prove authencity of talks, which clearly indicate that «hotels» serve to prostitution [which is illegal in Georgia] and might represent sites of trafficking!. Moreover, the local police into a private conversation confirm they know about Gonio being sex-tourism zone. They even say that it is a matter concern for them too. The police believe that the process will be irreversible, while the only focus of this country [and of this government!] is tourism.

Obviously, the police officers have not shared with ‘Batumelebi with the names of top officials which prevent them to take action on respond of citizens’ collective appeal – to carry measures against persons which are engaged in sex-service development

B.M. – another resident from Gonio, has one more argument why he thinks that police is both informed and even tied with sex business. He assured journalist that in case there are rumors that one of the girls has sexually transmittable disease, Police’s Special Operation Department (SOD) officials appear immediately and take the suspected woman on medical examination. In Gonio people remember that after such tests some sex-worker women came back, but they are also certain that some of them never returned.

According to Georgian Criminal code, transfer of place of residence or house for prostitution is punishable action which should result in 2-4 year imprisonment. Similarly, trafficking and involvement in prostitution either by use of force, or under threat of property destruction or deception is major offense and should be penalized.
Georgian Criminal Code, the transfer of residence or place of prostitution is punishable by imprisonment for 2 – to 4 years. In addition, involvement in prostitution is punishable, under threat of violence or property destruction and deception.

Consequently, law enforcement officers upon receiving information that place of residence was transferred to be used for prostitution are required immediately to start a fact finding and only based on its results decide shall they start a n official investigation or whether the ground was not proven. To use this very paragraph of the criminal code is a major demand of Gonio citizens.

Other articles on the same subject:



Georgia in U.S. Human Trafficking Report

Georgia is a source, transit and destination country for sex trafficking and forced labor with the Georgian government demonstrating improvements in anti-trafficking prevention efforts, according to U.S. Department of State’s annual report released on June 19.

For six straight years Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report puts Georgia in “tier one” – the highest ranking, which although does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem, but indicates that its government undertakes efforts to address this problem and meets minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

Out of the 185 countries reviewed in the 2012 report, which covers developments in 2011, 33 complied fully with laws in place to end human trafficking, putting them at the top of a four-tier ranking system.

While over the past decade Georgia was mainly described in annual TIP reports as “a source and transit country” of human trafficking, last year’s report, which was covering developments of 2010, said that Georgia was also “to a lesser extent” a destination country too. The new report describes Georgia as “a source, transit, and destination country.”

“Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country and also in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates,” TIP Report 2012 reads. “Women from Uzbekistan and possibly other countries are found in forced prostitution in the commercial sex industry in Georgia.”

According to the report there were cases of men and women being subjected to forced labor within Georgia, and Georgians being subjected to forced labor in Russia, Turkey and some other countries. The report also says that there have been cases in recent years of foreign nationals exploited in agriculture, construction and domestic service within Georgia and Turkish men subjected to forced labor “in the occupied territory of Abkhazia.”

According to the report the Georgian authorities demonstrated “improvements in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts”, as well as increased the number of investigated trafficking cases. 16 trafficking investigations involving 18 individuals were initiated in 2011, compared with 11 investigations of 18 individuals a year earlier, according to the report, which also says that five sex trafficking offenders were prosecuted and convicted in 2011, an increase from one offender convicted in 2010.

TIP Report 2012, however, also notes decline in identification of victims of trafficking as government’s efforts in this respect “were not effective” during the first half of 2011. 18 victims were identified, most of them in late 2011, compared to 19 a year earlier and 48 in 2009.

“Country experts reported concerns with the low level of victim identification and overall lack of success in locating trafficking victims, including children in exploitative situations on the street, children in the sex trade, foreign women in the commercial sex sector, and Georgian and foreign workers in vulnerable labor sectors,” the report reads.

It also notes that last year, the government increased funding for state-provided victim services by nearly 50%, including by allocating USD 302,000 to two government-run shelters for trafficking victims.

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