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Sauna in Rustavi – “You Can Choose Any of These Girls…”

Manon Bokuchava, Kvemo Kartli

Sauna with suspicious reputation continues working on the ground floor of the Hotel “Rustavi” in Rustavi city. It is the sauna where the cruel minister of the Rose government Irakli Okruashvili (former minister of interior) carried out special operation years ago. The fact of prostitution was confirmed in the sauna. The law enforcement officers found naked women and their clients in the building. The special operation was video-recorded and the entire Georgia saw them in news programs of the national TV-Channels.

Rustavi residents urged the Humanrights.ge to get interested in the institution several times. Finally we visited the Hotel “Rustavi” at 9:00 pm on June 10. We saw several women standing near the Sauna.

Journalist Giorgi Mazmishvili from the local newspaper “Rustavi News” accompanied us to the Sauna. He entered the building with audio-recorder.

Journalist: Who can I talk with? Do not you have young girls?

A woman: Everybody is here and you can choose from them.

The journalist: I like all of them.

Then they start speaking about prices.

“I was told to choose the girl according to my wish. I choose Maka. She said I had to pay 60-70 GEL. I could not make out the reason of the difference between prices; there were 6 women in the sauna; their age was under 30-40,” recalled Mazmishvili.

There are about 20 other agencies working in the Hotel “Rustavi” besides sauna. The IDPs also live in the building. They said the sauna does not bother them and they have no complaints about the sauna administration because the IDPs have been sheltering the building for 17 years without any problems.

Despite that, one IDP told us: “I was brought up on the seaside and nothing can surprise me. But we always knew one thing – Georgian woman was bashful; for example, we had always treat them politely. Looking at this sauna, I have lost my perfect opinion about Georgian women. I know that similar places will always work but it should not happen in the city center. They should work in the suburbs.”

We interviewed the director of the Business-Center Hotel “Rustavi” Ltd Malkhaz Alborashvili. At the beginning he asked: “Why did you enter my room with such an impression on your face?”

Although he did not like our face expression, he did not refuse to give an interview. “You can go to the Public Registration Agency and find out who is the owner of the sauna. We have leased out the space. We have no right to interfere in the activities of the sauna. I cannot say anything about prostitution facts there. I can say only one thing: about 20 spaces are leased out at the hotel and there is nothing illegal here,” said Malkhaz Alborashvili.

Although the hotel director did not tell us the name of the leaser of the sauna space, we easily found it out. We were told in the sauna that it belongs to Elguja Gvadzabia. He also agreed to give an interview to us. Unlike the hotel director he immediately told his name. “I have leased this sauna. No prostitution facts occur here. If a man comes here with a woman I cannot say anything – maybe she is his wife or somebody else. It is not my business. Generally, people started speaking nasty things about this sauna from the very beginning. You might remember the old incident about it. So, people still look at us in suspicion. Generally, saunas do not have good reputation in Georgia. But in our case believe me nothing immoral happens here. I do not blame you in anything but if there is some interest behind it, you can invent many accusations against us.”

We interviewed people near the hotel. The male respondents even rebuked us for being interested in this issue. “Are you going to write an article about the sauna and close it down?! There always were similar institutions in the country because they are necessary. Do you want the boys of Rustavi to be virgin?!”

We did not want to harm Rustavi residents. We got interested in the contagious diseases in the city. The head of the Rustavi dispenser for skin and contagious diseases Gocha Tabatadze said they do not have exact statistics about the diseases because private medical institutions received right to treat patients with contagious diseases and they do not send information to the dispenser about sick patients.

“In the past, article 122 was in force which obliged the patients with contiguous diseases to treat. Now this law was restricted. When a patient comes here, we cannot even request his passport. I know that this is democratic reform but the rights of many people are breached in this case. In the past, the police used to forcibly bring a prostitute here, we treated them and the people did not have reason to worry about in the city,” said the head of the dispenser.

Criminal Code regulates the prostitution in the country. Lawyer of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association Gagi Mosiashvili speaks about the law. “A person is punished if s/he assigns a space or accommodation to another person for prostitution. It is regulated under article 254 of the criminal code. However, this article cannot punish a person for giving a space to another person for single case. The action can be punished if it happens frequently or permanently. The person, who supports the illegal activity by assigning the space, will be punished. Here we have to prove whether the tenant (the owner of the sauna or the hotel) has information about the prostitution in the space. To prove the guiltiness, so called existence of intention should be proved.”

When we speak about the prostitution, the society is curious about the person who protects similar institutions. During the governance of the ex-president Shevardnadze similar institutions were protected by the law enforcement officials and they used the prostitutes as informers. It is difficult to say whether the patrol police inherited this function from the old police. However, they are entitled to investigate the situation in the suspicious institutions. And one more thing, during our journalistic survey, a patrol police car was standing near the sauna for 15-20 minutes.
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