Sex Worker and Albania's Highest Court
(a pseudonym to protect her identity) was arrested in January last
year in a well-known hotel in Tirana, in bed with two businessmen and
a substantial quantity of cocaine.
bar in Blloku, the upmarket Tirana entertainment district where
some pimps and prostitutes work. Photo: BIRN/Ivana Dervishi
is 18 years old. She started working as a prostitute when she was 14.
a child, Pamela was abandoned by her mother and maltreated by her
grandmother. She felt she had no alternative but to run away from
home. She left in January 2011, not looking back once, wearing little
more than slippers and a sweater.
did not realise then that the price of her freedom would have to be
paid in bed, with men of very different standing, from those with an
air of sophistication to hardened drinkers. A close friend gave her
shelter — but then explained she would have to earn her keep, by
working as a prostitute.
tall brunette with big black eyes, full lips and a seductive girlish
smile, Pamela sold her body in different cities and towns — in
Tirana, Durres, Vlora and Saranda. Bouncers, waiters, coffee shop
owners, hotel receptionists and taxi drivers took care of providing
normally charged between €200 and €300. In a country where the
average wage is around €260, only members of Albania's economic
elite could afford such prices.
doesn’t remember how many clients she had but knows they called her
"the MPs' escort lady" because she was rumoured to sell sex
to politicians or "cocaine girl". The police operation that
resulted in her arrest was codenamed Model Girl. An unimaginative
choice, but perhaps an indication of whom the police considered their
main target. Not the two businessmen who had paid €300 to have sex
with Pamela. They were not charged with any offence. Even their names
were not made public.
on the other hand, was sent to trial and convicted of working as a
prostitute. She is serving her 18-month sentence at a rehabilitation
centre for trafficking victims in Linza, on the outskirts of Tirana.
day more and more girls work the streets," she says. "I
might have met 300 of them. They're as young as 13."
have been several attempts to decriminalise prostitution in Albania
but all of them have failed. Politicians claim public opinion would
not support such a change.
2013, parliament rejected a petition from the country's
anti-discrimination commissioner to strike prostitution from the
criminal code. Some female members of parliament argued in vain that
most sex workers were victims of human trafficking and should not be
treated as criminals.
year, both the government and parliament campaigned against a similar
proposal from the national High Court. On June 25, the Constitutional
Court sided with the politicians. It ruled in favour of keeping
Article 113 of the criminal code, which specifies that prostitution
is an offence punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison.
experts argue Article 113 is a great help to traffickers and pimps.
With the help of clever lawyers, what may start out as a criminal
case of sexual exploitation often becomes a case of prostitution.
Women get punished, men walk free.
the basis of Article 113, Pamela, a young woman forced into
prostitution as child, was found guilty of a criminal offence and
deprived of her liberty for 18 months. None of her clients or pimps
has been convicted of any offence.
she has finished her sentence, Pamela says, she will go back to
prostitution. She does not feel she has any other choice. She plans
to move to Belgium. She knows that prostitutes are not prosecuted
Cela joined the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania in
September 2015. She previously worked for several national print and
TV outlets. Her fellowship story on Albanian victims of sex
trafficking will be published in the coming days.