Prostitution in Armenia is illegal[1] under administrative law[2] (Article 179.1).[3] Related activities such as running a brothel and pimping are prohibited by the Criminal Code,[4][5] although there are known to be brothels in the capital, Yerevan, and in Gyumri.[6] According to UNESCO, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, prostitution in the country has grown.[7] There are about 5,600 women involved in prostitution in Armenia,[8] roughly 1,500 of them are in Yerevan.[9] However, official police figures are far lower, for example 240 in 2012.[1] Police and other safety forces reportedly tolerate prostitution.[9] Many women turn to prostitution due to unemployment.[10]

Child prostitution is a problem in the country,[11] but this is denied by the authorities.[1][11] Sex trafficking is also a problem.[12]


At the start of the 20th century, prostitution in Armenia was legal and regulated. The main objective of the regulation was to control sexually transmitted infections.[13]

Brothels could be opened by women over 35 years old. The brothel could not be within 150 sazhens (320 metres) of churches, schools, and other public places. The owner must live on the premises and not engage in prostitution herself. She could take a maximum of 3/4 of the prostitutes' earnings.[13]

A former brothel in Teryan Street, Yerevan is still noticeable by its carved naked women on the facade.[13]

During majority of the Soviet period, prostitution officially didn't exist. Prostitutes were sent to be "re-educated" in labour camps.[14] It wasn't until 1987, that the Administrative Code included the prohibition of prostitution.[13]

Calls for legalisation

The head of Dermatology and Infectious Diseases Scientific-Medical Center, doctor-dermatologist Samvel Hovhannisyan, was quoted as saying in June 2015: "The legalisation of prostitution in Armenia may cause a reduction of a rate of sexually transmitted diseases to 60%." He added that the "ancient profession" must be strictly controlled by the country.[7]

In 2016, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly’s Vanadzor Office president, Artur Sakunts, called for prostitution to be legalised and regulated. He said the taxes paid by the sex workers would benefit the country, and that “Paid sex services should not be considered a punishable act; they should not be prosecuted not to be ever manageable at the hands of organized criminal groups which could make [sex workers] victims of internal trafficking.”[15]

In the run-up to the 2017 Armenian parliamentary election, former prime minister, Hrant Bagratyan, of the Free Democrats party said prostitution should be legalised and licensed, and taxation of their services would be positive towards the state's budget.[16]

Sex Trafficking

See also: Human trafficking in Armenia

Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Armenia, and traffickers exploit victims from Armenia abroad. Armenian women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in the UAE and Turkey. Armenian women and children are also subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Russian women working as dancers in nightclubs are vulnerable to sex trafficking.[12]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Armenia as a 'Tier 2' country.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Prostitution statistics in Armenia". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  2. ^ Ditmore, Melissa Hope (2006). Encyclopedia of prostitution and sex work. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0313329685.
  3. ^ "Republic of Armenia Law Enforcement Anti-Trafficking Training Needs Assessment". Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. December 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  4. ^ "The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country". ChartsBin. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia" (PDF). National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia. 18 April 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  6. ^ Dudwick, Nora; Gomart, Elizabeth; Marc, Alexandre; Kuehnast, Kathleen (2003). When things fall apart : qualitative studies of poverty in the former Soviet Union. Washington, DC: World Bank. p. 138. ISBN 9780821350676.
  7. ^ a b "Proposed to legalize prostitution in Armenia". Report News Agency. 14 June 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Sex workers: Population size estimate - Number, 2016". UNAIDS. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Armenia 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices". U.S. Department of State. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Armenia: Women Driven into Prostitution". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Armenia: Child Prostitution Taboo". Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Armenia 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report". United States Department of State. Retrieved 14 March 2020.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ a b c d Vardanyan, Gegham (20 July 2004). "The Armenian sex trade - 4 - A history of prostitution in Armenia". Hetq - News, Articles, Investigations. Archived from the original on 20 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  14. ^ Shkarovsky, Lebina NB (1994). "Кнутом или законом?" [A whip or a law?]. Progress Academy. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Prostitution should be made legal in Armenia – human rights activist". Tert. 16 December 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  16. ^ Martirosyan, Nana (20 March 2017). "Free Democrats promise to legalize prostitution, while Communists are set to eradicate it". Arminfo. Retrieved 19 January 2018.