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Hungarian news site index.hu has called attention to the ongoing issue of underage prostitution and sex trafficking in the country, through the story of a 15-year-old Budapest prostitute who was recently fined by a Hungarian court for illegal solicitation.
The girl has been given the name Adrien by media, in an attempt to safeguard her identity. Adrien comes from a destitute single-parent home and has two younger siblings. Her mother was unable to provide stable income for the family, so, as of the age of 13, Adrien took whatever work she could find. Eventually, she turned to prostitution and has been selling sexual favors on Üllői road regularly since last autumn, when she was just 14.
Hungary legalized prostitution in 1999 and has since required sex workers to register, carry proper documentation, and offer their services within designated zones. The country is also known for being a prolific hub for child sex trafficking, with Austria recently revealing that some 25% of the prostitutes in that country, many there under duress, originate from Hungary.
Adrien is not a registered sex worker and cannot be at her age. Her mother tells index.hu that she believes Adrien gives most of her earnings to her boyfriend. Adrien’s mother has tried putting a stop to the teenage relationship, with no success. Adrien doesn’t deny her mother’s claims and says that while she purchases cigarettes, energy drinks, a few clothing items, and some food for the family occasionally, most of the money she makes selling sexual favors on the street is eventually handed over to her boyfriend.
Since starting her illicit street job, Adrien has been arrested four times for illegal solicitation. The fourth arrest landed her in front of a judge, whose ruling was a €65 fine, after which Adrien was released. The average monthly net salary in Hungary is around €650.
Index.hu and others are calling the ruling, although fully compliant with current laws, “strange in many ways.” What seems most “strange” is that authorities deem Adrien as an offender, instead of an underage victim.
Legal aid and public advocacy group Street Lawyer Association offered help and their representative Noemi Molnár took Adrienn’s case, appearing in court at the hearing in Adrien’s stead. Molnár said she and the social worker present were initially hopeful, thinking the judge would let Adrien off with a warning and they would then have the chance to help the family get on its feet.
“We thought it would be a warning, because the other possible sanctions were considered irrelevant,”Molnár told index.hu. While €65 might not seem like much to outsiders, for a poverty-stricken family and a teenager whose only recourse for financial income seem to be illegal activities like prostitution, the fine is not only high, but counterproductive.
According to statistics in the country, 86 juveniles were sentenced for illegal solicitation in 2016 alone. Half of those underage perpetrators received warnings, 11 were fined, while 12 received prison sentences.
Feature image source credit: Oregon Department of Transportation (by Smallman12q) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons