'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (MAIA trafficked to Moscow at 18: 'They brought me to a group of 12 men, kept me there for four days, taking turns.' Moldova 2005), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (Usually they see themselves as something dirty. It is very hard to make them understand that the soul and the body is a whole and not two separate things, says their psychologist Lilia Gorceag... Moldova 2004), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (VIKA, trafficked to Dubai at 19: I was sold three times during my pregnancy. The last madam purchased a foldout bed for me. The madam bought this bed and made a hole in it, so when I would be with clients, my belly would dip in... Moldova 2007), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (A little girl worries about the fate of her sister who left for Turkey three years prior to this photo being taken. The family had only heard from her once – a letter she sent to her home village... Moldova 2004), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (JENEA and NATALIA, both trafficked to Turkey. Jenea was 18 when a woman from a nearby village promised her a sales job in Moscow. Instead Jenea was sold in a brothel... Moldova 2008), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (Cristina was trafficked to Russia at 16. She was pregnant by her boyfriend: The pimps bought me a pair of boots. I wore them every day for three months. Moldova 2005), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, ('They are not puppets,' reads an awareness poster made by high school students. Moldova 2004.), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (Cristina was trafficked to Russia at 16. Both of her parents are now alcoholics: When Cristina came home and told me what they had done to her... 'I said put me in a coffin and bury me,' says Cristina's mom. Moldova 2005), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (Both Katelina's mom, Natalia, and aunt, Jenea, were sold for sex in Istanbul, Turkey. Natalia was forced into prostitution to pay off Jenea's remaining debt after trying to escape and falling from the third floor... Moldova 2008), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (Most of the young women I met at a secret shelter in Albania were trafficked at the age of 12. Countries of destination include Greece, Italy, Belgium and the UK. Albania 2008), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, (Olesea sleeps while her mom, Maria, prepares breakfast at six in the morning. During the winter months they share this one room to keep each other warm... Moldova 2004), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (Dance Club in Chisinau, Moldova, 2008), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (KATIA, trafficked to Turkey: 'I was 18 when I was sold by a woman in my village. I was a virgin. I am so ashamed. I can't eat out of the same plate as my mother.' Moldova 2005), $700 'The Price of Sex' Series, Photograph, 40 x 60 inches, (VIKA trafficked to Dubai at 19: 'My youngest client in Dubai was 12. His father brought him to the brothel. My oldest was 83… what more can I tell you?' Moldova 2004), $700

The Price of Sex / US Embassy 2012

THE PRICE OF SEX:
Documentary Photographs by MIMI CHAKAROVA

 

August 31 – September 30, 2012
Vernissage Friday August 31 / 7 – 10pm

 

In collaboration with Ottawa Photography Month & Nuit Blanche 2012This project is funded in part through a U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy-Ottawa Public Affairs Section Grant.

http://priceofsex.org/

 

The Price of Sex is a documentary film and photo exhibit about women in Eastern Europe who fell through the cracks of migration. We grew up under a restrictive communist regime but secretly hungered for opportunities in the West. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Eastern Europeans finally had a chance to taste raw capitalism. The unfortunate reality was that the vulnerable and uneducated lacked the necessary skills to survive it. Countless young women fell prey to traffickers. These girls, some still teenagers, were a commodity to be sold, exploited and discarded. Some call them foolish – poor girls duped with promises for work abroad, instead sold to pimps in brothels and sex clubs; others call them sex slaves – victims of brutal, irreversible circumstances. No one knows how many women have been killed in the global sex trade. We can only estimate. Over time I found young women who had survived. This exhibit is a testament to their courage – their willingness to expose the darkest and most haunting inner-workings of sexual slavery.One of the main reasons for showing the faces of these women is to strip away the fear and shame that keeps so many quiet. The women’s silence perpetuates the vicious cycle of trafficking. As the years passed, I was convinced that if I could bring back what I witnessed, I could be an outlet for change. I found ways to expose the corruption that greases the wheels of the sex trade. I spent nearly a decade connecting the dots between the countries of origin – where the girls come from – and the countries of destination in the West and the Middle East – where they end up sold into prostitution against their will.My hope is that the film, along with this exhibit, will reveal a deeper truth of the women’s reality and what they’ve endured. Sex trafficking is not a sheer equation of supply and demand. Add desperation, poverty, abuse, no access to justice and high levels of corruption and you’ll be a step closer in understanding why sex trafficking continues to thrive. By peeling away the layers of the price of sex, the viewers become witnesses – no longer unaware or complacent. I urge them to rise for what must change. – Mimi Chakarova

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Since the collapse of communism in 1989 millions of former Soviet bloc residents have migrated abroad looking for opportunities. These waves of migration breathed life into one of the oldest yet darkest criminal enterprises—the trafficking of human beings into sexual slavery.

Thousands of Eastern European women have been sold into prostitution. For the last ten years photojournalist Mimi Chakarova, a Bulgarian who immigrated to the United States in 1990, has documented their journeys from villages in Moldova and Albania to the streets of Turkey and nightclubs in Dubai—where prostitution is an equation of supply, demand and desperation.

 

HOW TRAFFICKING WORKS

After the fall of the Soviet Union, millions of young women in Eastern Europe came of age amid economic misery. Their childhood fantasies of a better life in the West became a human trafficker’s golden opportunity. Agents and brokers arrange travel and job placements as waitresses or nannies; young women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to their employers. They quickly find that there is no café or family, but a pimp who puts them to work.

Most women are trafficked by someone they know: a relative, an acquaintance, a boyfriend or a childhood friend. More than 60 % are recruited by other women. Upon reaching the foreign land, they find themselves in coercive and abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.

 

DESTINATION COUNTRIES

Currently the top five destinations for sex trafficking of Eastern European women are Russia, Turkey, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Most women expect work as factory workers, waitresses, domestic servants and au pairs. After arriving in the country of destination, their passports, documents, money, and personal belongings are taken away. They become sex slaves, sold and resold to pimps at brothels, hotels, and apartments. Those who manage to escape the traffickers are deported. Back home, they rarely tell their loved ones the truth. The stigmatization of prostitution is every family’s deepest shame.

 

FACTORS

Human trafficking succeeds because of the lack of job opportunities in Eastern Europe, persistent poverty, domestic violence, and the degradation of the family unit since the collapse of communism. Lacking education and often living in villages with no running water and electricity, rural women are eager to escape their grim reality. They are desperate to work abroad to sustain their families back home. More than 30% of those trafficked have 1-2 children and 70% of them are single mothers. Women leave home because they see no other alternative. With an average income of $100 a month, mere survival is at the core of why women agree to go abroad.

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