Sex trade in Eastern Europe

Sex trade is one of the oldest businesses in the world. Since the emergence of the global village, the Internet, and worldwide tourism, the sex trade has become global and much more open to any kind of trafficking.

The article below is focused on female prostitution within Eastern Europe following the Frontline documentary Sex Slaves.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of the borders, the sex trade has opened up considerably between Eastern Europe and Western Europe + United States and to an even greater extent with Turkey. This video documentary exposes a serious contemporary issue of the whole world.  It does this by showing throughout the movie the example of villages in Moldova and Ukraine (the particular example of Odessa on the Black Sea a few years following the making of the documentary became a global hub for the sex trade) and how these young rural women can uncritically trust these women and men (traffickers) who promise them a better life out of Eastern Europe. As the online newspapers The European Union Times clearly points out: »Moldovans are a hybrid population of Russians, Romanians, Jews, Ukrainians and Bulgarians. That creates a special race of women that are beautiful and in demand. They have no future. They are a good target for the traffickers.”

The smugglers find desperate girls with no education and willing to go abroad and easily drive them to underground brothels and discotheques in Turkey as said in the documentary. They simply think they are sent to Turkey or Western Europe or to the United States to work as domestics, singers, and dancers in discotheques. The reality could not be further than what they have in mind. These impoverished and helpless young women illegally arrive in a country they do not know, where they might not speak the language. As a girl attests: “I thought I was going to work in a shop […]. We were told we could earn $200 a month. […] We hoped everything would be ok”. They are scared and forced to follow the “trafficker” who smuggles them out from their home countries. Once they arrive in the destination country, they are sold to another person: a pimp. Then, they are forced to sell themselves. They do not have the choice to refuse. From the moment they have been sold to a pimp, the girls belong to him. If they want their freedom back they need to pay back the amount the pimp paid to get them. However, it is not easy for the girls to be able to pay back their debt. The pimp is the master in this awful game. He usually sells the girl to another pimp, which ends up trapping the girls in an inescapable circle.

Turkey has become one of the largest markets for women trafficked in Europe. Its good location between Europe and the Middle East allows it to be an exchange place for the sex business. Moreover, compared to what the girls left behind them, Turkey looks like the Eldorado. However, once they have been sold, they start working right away to make profit for their new owners and do not have the choice anymore to refuse this new life that they have been dreaming about. Young women may have between 8 and 15 clients a day. Sometimes more than twenty girls work in a three-bedrom apartment. Most of the girls are beaten at least once a day and are forced to satisfy the slightest sexual whims of their customers.

According to the article Opinion: Behind the myth of the « happy hooker » published in the Global Post, the United Nations has stated that between « 800,000 and 4 million men, women and children are deceived, recruited, transported from their homes and sold into slavery around the world each year. Eighty percent are women, girls and young boys trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. Of these, more than 200,000 women and children from Russia and Eastern Europe are forced into prostitution each year. »

To fight sex tourism in Ukraine and exploitation of Ukrainian girls within sex trade out of Eastern Europe, the organization « FEMEN » is trying to carry out a serie of eye-catching demonstrations (through provocative actions to attract attention) by spreading the message that prostitution is illegal in Ukraine.

However, the real question regarding prostitution is: is there any way to combat this timeless phenomenon? Should prostitution be legalised? Should governments legalise and regulate prostitution in order to protect girls and give them social and labour rights? As seen in all countries which ban prostitution outright, this prohibition has not stopped the traffick of women and girls in the global sex trade. What actions should be taken?