15-year-old Hungarian girl fined for prostitution – was the verdict just?
According to index.hu, Adrienn has been working at Üllői Road as a prostitute since last autumn. She’s been caught by the police four times for prohibited prostitution, because Üllői Road is a main road and she didn’t have the necessary medical documents. Infringement action was taken against her and she was fined. She has to pay 20,000 forints (~EUR 65). But she doesn’t have any other source of income, because she’s only 15 years old.
Adrienn, who’s actually not called Adrienn, lives in one of the suburban districts of Budapest with her mother and siblings among awful financial and living conditions. Her case illustrates the shorcomings of the Hungarian law system regarding youth.
She was 10 years old when they moved to Budapest, but she was put into a children’s home with her siblings. She became a prostitute at the age of 13. She once accompanied her friend to work and later joined the business. Her mother thinks that she gives all her income to her boyfriend. Adrienn says that she buys herself cigarettes, energy drinks, clothes and sometimes spends on the family, but she gives most of the money to her boyfriend. Her mother attempt to ban her from seeing the boy was in vain.
She was reported by the police four times between February and April for prohibited prostitution. “The policeman stopped me and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was working. I also told the truth in the detention-room.”
After combining the four reports, the Town-District Court of Pest fined Adrienn to pay 20,000 forints in July. Since she is only 15 years old, experts find this verdict problematic from several aspects. The fine might seem legit, but Adrienn’s mother has an extremely low income and three children, while the girl still goes to primary school and she can only get money from prostitution.
Moreover, the judge didn’t summon Adrienn or her mother, only sent two notifications about the hearing. Even though it said that Adrienn or her legal representative could show up, the judge could’ve decided without knowing the life conditions, ambitions of the girl. Although, it is also a possibility that the judge simply wanted to spare the teenager.
The family turned to the social worker who visits them frequently. The worker called the organisation called Utcajogász (Street Jurist), in which volunteer jurists help poor and homeless people. Noémi Molnár took on the case and went to the hearing. She talked about the family’s social situation and thought that she can change the verdict to a warning.
Judges have four verdict options in the case of young people under 18 committing a foul: warning, work of public utility, fine or imprisonment. In 2016, 86 underaged were sentenced for prostitution, half of them were warned, 11 were fined and 12 were imprisoned. The law says that all conditions have to be considered when sentencing young people, so that they can change for the better and respect the law.
Even though it was obvious from the report that Adrienn became a prostitute to earn money, the judge fined her. Her mother couldn’t pay for her, so she borrowed the money from their social worker.
According to sociologist Viktória Sebhelyi, the main problem is that the Hungarian law considers children like Adrienn perpetrators, while the regulations concerning prostitution under 18 are not clear enough. The international law states clearly that someone who is a kid and is concerned with prostitution is a victim. This way the Hungarian law doesn’t comply fully with UN’s compact about children’s rights.
She also finds it problematic that it is up to the policeman whether he treats the girl as a victim of human trafficking or as a perpetrator of an infringement. She believes that the law should clearly separate the definitions of victim and perpetrator.
Jurist Zsófia Moldova and criminologist Dávíd Víg wrote a study about young people who were imprisoned due to infringement. They believe this method to be unsuccessful to achieve its goal, it is contra-productive and has harmful effects on the character of the minor. For that matter, the ombudsman had previously turned to the Constitutional Court with a similar reasoning.