A large number of sex workers forced into prostitution by poverty and desperation in Moldova face violence and humiliation in order to run their homes.
According to a local sex worker who works on the streets of southern Moldova, “everyone who looks decent and attractive on the outside can actually be a beast.”
Speaking to DW, the woman and two of her professional friends explained how dangerous the job is. During this conversation, he described the numerous horrific incidents of torture, murder, and kidnapping of prostitutes in Moldova, “They hanged Mariana while drowning Natasha. I don’t remember exactly which Aiolia. Like dead.”
A life of fear, violence and humiliation
With a population of less than three million, this former Soviet state is one of the poorest countries in Europe. About one-third of the country’s female sex workers are active in the capital city of Qiaoxiao, while there are no figures for male sex workers.
Because prostitution is illegal in Moldova, female sex workers cannot rely on any form of government protection. On the other hand, whenever the government gets information about their source of income or they are caught in the act of prostitution, they also have to pay a fine ranging from eighty-eight to one hundred and eighteen euros.
During the conversation with DW, these sex worker women also complained of humiliation, fear and harassment at the hands of the police. According to these women, who were abused, tortured and humiliated by clients, they had no other option but to resort to prostitution to support their families.
A body can be bought in Moldova for five euros
Female sex workers can be seen waiting for customers on both sides of the road for five kilometers in an industrial area of the capital city of Qiaoxiao. This road is divided between different groups of prostitutes for business.
The work here is not so easy for new comers. According to a woman who has been working as a sex worker for 20 years, since men always prefer young women for sex, she chases away these young prostitutes to attract clients and earn a living. . He said that after the war in Ukraine, a large number of Ukrainian women are active in prostitution here, who also have pimps for business. However, according to other women, prostitutes in Moldova set their own rates and terms rather than pimps.
Although luxury escorts (expensive prostitutes) earn hundreds of euros a night, street sex workers earn ten to twenty-five euros. The smaller the area, the lower the earnings. In Moldova, a prostitute’s body can be bought for as little as five euros.
Discrimination and Prejudicial Attitudes
A 40-year-old sex worker told DW that there are more problems for prostitutes in smaller areas. He said that if someone gets recognized in such areas, the chances of humiliation and disgrace increase. The woman said that money is also scarce in such areas and people’s negative perception of prostitutes makes them prone to more psychological problems.
According to a recent survey on social prejudices about prostitutes in Moldova, 88 percent of people said they would not even want to be near a sex worker. These women are engaged in this work because they have no other source of livelihood. A peer sex workers’ group believes that people who say prostitution is easy to make money with don’t have the slightest idea of what it does to the heart and mind of a prostitute.
Due to the lack of state protection, the health problems of prostitutes in Moldova are also severe. Since these women trade in secret, if they contract any disease, it is easily passed on. These include life-threatening diseases like HIV and AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
Forced to live a double life
While prostitutes can be seen on the streets of Moldova, some women with financial problems have set up prostitution dens in their homes. These are the women, who do not want to make their identity public. These women who seem to live a normal life do this secretly so that they can solve their financial problems. They include students and married women who are unable to support the household with their husband’s earnings. Therefore, they are forced to earn some money by going to their own apartments or customers’ houses.
Diana, a mother of two, told DW, “I would do anything to feed my children,” adding that she is a good mother. Everyone knows about one life but only customers know about the other.
Penalties are a separate issue
Some women even pay fines to the police if they are caught in the act of prostitution. However, women like Larisa, who has been working as a prostitute for the past twenty-six years, escape these fines. Larissa is from the Transnistria region, which seceded from Moldova in 1992 with Russian help. Since they do not have a Moldovan passport, they do not need to pay such fines.
Rose’s penalties, on the other hand, are a real problem for Erida. She has paid more than 200 fines. She is eight months pregnant, but she still continues prostitution. Erida’s husband, a mother of two, is in prison for drug trafficking, “My husband will be gone in 15 years, so I will have to take care of the children myself.”
Many sex workers from different cities in Moldova have also expressed surprise at the increasing number of minors on the streets. A sex worker said that the youngest girls are only 12 years old, “The police are aware of it. Social workers may also know, but no one is doing anything to save them. “I think even men should have some basic morals,” he lamented.
(This article is the result of extensive and long-term research by a team of journalists in the Republic of Moldova, including DW’s correspondent in the capital, Vielta Kolesnik. Journalists from various towns and cities across the country More than forty sex workers were interviewed. This article was first published in Romanian.)
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