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Hungary: Forced prostitution; investigating office; whether authorities investigate assaults perpetrated by pimps; state protection for Hungarian victims

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 9 April 2003
Citation / Document Symbol HUN40870.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Forced prostitution; investigating office; whether authorities investigate assaults perpetrated by pimps; state protection for Hungarian victims, 9 April 2003, HUN40870.E, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the United States Department of State (DOS), trafficking in women and children for the purposes of prostitution remains a problem in Hungary (Country Reports 31 Mar. 2003; TPR 5 June 2002). Hungary is a source, destination and a transit state for human traffickers (ibid., Sec. 6f; BIM May 2000, 5). However, it is not one of the major sending or receiving countries in the world, according to trafficking specialist Lenke Fehér of the Institute of Legal Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (18 September 2002, 34n.65).

Women subjected to trafficking for the purpose of forced prostitution are generally "attractive women between 18 and 35 years old," unemployed or earning a very low income and with lower education levels (BIM May 2000, 13). The most vulnerable are those without supportive family links, teenagers from correctional institutions and young single mothers (ibid.). The NGO Vital Voices noted that Hungarian trafficking victims are often from eastern Hungary and are generally trafficked outside the country (Mar. 2003).

In 2000, Hungarian authorities reportedly "crack[ed] down on the criminals who organize prostitution" following the passage of a series of reforms (The Washington Post 12 Mar. 2000). The new laws, which entered into force 1 March 2000 (BIM May 2000, 26), introduced a "‘limited abolitionist'" model that designates some areas as forbidden to prostitution but requires local authorities to designate certain districts as "zones of tolerance" for prostitution as well as provide mechanisms for health control (ibid., 9)Also referred to by The Washington Post as "prostitutes-without-pimps," the reforms introduced "heavy" fines and jail sentences for pimping and legalized brothels as long as they did not have a controlling madam (The Washington Post 12 Mar. 2000).

These reforms reportedly caused some confusion concerning the legal status of prostitution (AP 24 Sept. 2002; ibid. 13 Sept. 2000; The Washington Post 12 Mar. 2000). In 2000, national police determined that until local authorities designated permissive zones, all districts were considered protected from prostitution (ibid.). As a result, they instituted "very strict police control," forcing prostitutes to move to new territories (BIM May 2000, 10). As of September 2002, regional and local authorities had still not designated zones of tolerance, and prostitutes reportedly faced police harassment, fines or imprisonment (AP 24 Sept. 2002).

With respect to women trafficked and forced into prostitution, the United States DOS Trafficking Report for Hungary indicated that, while the number of arrests for trafficking increased in 2001, police "often" refused to investigate reports of kidnapped young women and treated victims like criminals (5 June 2002, Sec. III). However, authorities did arrest some border guards for their role in human smugglers' operations (ibid.). Lenke Fehér noted that trafficked women may be considered offenders if they are forced to take part in illegal acts such as drug dealing, possessing false documents or violating prostitution regulations (BIM May 2000, 10).

The Research Directorate did not find reports of individuals suspected of arrested for or charged with assaulting individuals identified as forced prostitutes among the sources consulted.

Under the Hungarian protection programme legislated as Act LXXXV of 2001, trafficked individuals who help a criminal procedure against human smugglers are provided protection if they are threatened as a result of their cooperation (Fehér 18 Sept. 2002, 25n.55). The type of protection provided is in proportion to the degree of danger imposed upon the person and may include moving the victim to a safe house, supplying personal protection and/or creating a new identity (ibid.). However, Hungary does not have a safe house established to serve the needs of trafficking victims, although NGOs often fill this void (ibid., 27n.58); nor does it fully comply with the international minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking (TPR 5 June 2002). Moreover, for trafficked women forced into "the double roles of offender and victim" they are often "prevented from seeking the assistance from authorities by their fear" (BIM May 2000, 10). According to the NGO Vital Voices, as of March 2003, Hungary had not instituted laws against human trafficking (Mar. 2003).

There are a number of NGOs in Hungary that provide support for prostitutes, including: Fehér Gyuru (White Ring), NANE (Women for Women Together Against Violence), ESZTER (Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violent Sexual Assault), Kiút Veled Egyesület (Escape Association) (BIM May 2000, 34-35), the Salamon Alapitvany Foundation (SAF) (OSI Spring 2001, 11; ibid. n.d.; UN 16 May 2001; ibid. 29 Feb. 2000, para. 103) and Ildikok Memorial Civil Rights Institute (IMCRI) (ibid.). The UN referred to an "emergency respite centre" opened by the SAF and the IMCRI where sex workers seeking to leave situations of labour or trafficking may stay between 30 and 90 days (UN 29 Feb. 2000, para. 103). The Research Directorate was unable to find further information concerning this centre, or to determine its location from the sources consulted. White Ring, NANE and ESZTER each provide services for victims of sexual violence while the Escape Association focuses on assisting victims of forced prostitution and trafficking (BIM May 2000, 34-35).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press Worldstream (AP). 24 September 2002. George Jahn. "Prostitutes, Officials Battle Over Where Women Can Practice Trade in Hungary's Capital." (NEXIS)

_____. 13 September 2000. "Prostitutes in Budapest Get Organized." (NEXIS)

Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte (BIM, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights). May 2000. Lenke Fehér. "Legal Study on the Combat of Trafficking in Women for the Purpose of Forced Prostitution in Hungary." In Combat of Trafficking in Women for the Purpose of Forced Prostitution: Hungary Country Report. Edited by Angelika Kartusch 2nd ed. Vienna, Austria. < > [Accessed 7 Apr. 2003]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. "Hungary." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 2 Apr. 2003]

Fehér, Lenke. 18 September 2002. "Trafficking in Human Beings in Candidate Countries." Paper presented at the International Organization for Migration/European Commission/European Parliament (IOM/EC/EP) STOP Conference "On Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: Global Challenge for the 21st Century, Brussels, Belgium, 18-20 September 2002. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2003]

Open Society Institute (OSI) [New York]. Spring 2001. Harm Reduction News. Vol. 2, No. 1. Sue Simon. "Linking Sex Workers with Harm Reduction." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2003]

_____. n.d. "Sex Worker Projects." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2003]

Trafficking in Persons Report (TPR). 5 June 2002. "Hungary." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 2 Apr. 2003]

United Nations. 16 May 2001. General Assembly. "List of Civil Society Organizations Not in a Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council That Have Been Approved for Accreditation to the High-Level International Intergovernmental Event on HIV/AIDS Including its Preparatory Process by Member States, 18 May 2001." (HIV/AIDS/CRP.2/Add.1/Rev.1) [Accessed 4 Apr. 2003]

_____. 29 February 2000. Economic and Social Council. Commission on Human Rights. "Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective Violence Against Women." (E/CN.4/2000/68) [Accessed 3 Apr. 2003]

Vital Voices Global Partnership [Washington]. March 2003. "Toward a Nation Free from Violence Against Women: Hungarian Women Leaders Combating Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence." [Accessed 2 Apr. 2003]

The Washington Post. 12 March 2000. Peter Finn. "Hungarians Say ‘Stop' to Red-Light Districts: Officials Befuddled by New Prostitution Law." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Unsuccessful attempt to contact a trafficking specialist at the Institute of Legal Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Unsuccessful attempt to contact the Salamon Alapitvany Foundation

Internet sites, including:


Council of Europe

European Network for HIV/STD Prevention in Prostitution

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Hungarian Gender Databank

International Human Rights Law Group

Stop Traffic

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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