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This year, Azerbaijani journalist Sevinc Osmangizi found herself targeted by a smear campaign that variously accused her of being a double agent As prostitutes are exploited in the cafes, police officers sit back and watch the profits roll in. Just 19 at the time and with nowhere to live or enough money to survive, Gulnara took one of the few options open to women in her situation — prostitution.
What else could I do? In this conservative society, women who shame their families by having relationships outside marriage often end up in the sex trade for good.
Like Gulnara, some find their way to the so-called "brothel cafes" along the Baku-Sumgait highway. These are reportedly controlled from behind the scenes by local police officers, who instead of protecting these vulnerable women take a percentage of their earnings and use their services.
Sevda has worked as a prostitute at a cafe for several years. She said it is no secret in Baku that the cafes are run by the police, and that occasional raids to close them down are completely staged and fool no one. But he failed to send money as promised, and to support her child she took a job washing dishes at a cafe.
When the owner asked her to sleep with him and she said no, he raped her. She says she was then forced into becoming a prostitute. She saw no point in reporting the assault to the police. They feed their children on our money. Half of that goes to the cafe owner, who shares the money with the police. Analysts say sex trafficking is also becoming an increasing problem with 80 cases reported last year and in the first nine months of Interior ministry statistics show there were people charged with keeping illegal brothels in the first nine months of , compared with 68 last year.