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Moldova: The Price of Sex


Moldova MapCountry Profile: Moldova
Moldova, a country roughly the same size as Maryland, is sandwiched between the Ukraine and Romania. It was incorporated from Romania into the Soviet Union toward the end of World War II. In 1991, Moldova gained independ-ence after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but has struggled ever since to become a modern state. Civil war broke out in the country in 1992 over the question of whether to rejoin Romania for greater economic stability. After the war, the eastern region of Trans-Dniester, with its strong ties to Moscow and its minority Slavic population, broke away from the rest of Moldova.

With a population of 4.5 million, Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe. The mainstay of Moldova's economy is agriculture, and with no major mineral wealth, it imports almost all of its energy needs. Eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Many Moldovans were forced to emigrate in the mid-1990s because of poverty and other economic hardships brought on by the Soviet collapse. A quarter of all working-age Moldovans find work abroad, many illegally. Among those, tens of thousands are thought to be working in the sex trade trafficked to countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In 2004, the Moldovan government more than doubled the number of convictions handed down for sex trafficking. But the state still uses little of its own resources to stop the trade. Instead, it mostly relies on NGOs and international organizations to combat the problem. - Sources: U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report (2005); The Washington Post, CIA World Factbook.

"I wanted the viewer to get inside the mind of a trafficked woman and to see the aftermath of the flesh trade."
- Mimi Chakarova

Related Links

Mimi Chakarova
Watch Mimi Chakarova's original longer-form Moldova slideshow as well as work she has done in Cuba, India, China, and other countries featured on her Web site.

International Organization for Migration in Moldova
This intergovernmental group works with the Moldovan government and other organizations to monitor all aspects of Moldovan migration and to combat human trafficking.

The Photographer
Mimi Chakarova's PictureMimi Chakarova earned a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley. She is currently working on two long-term projects - the conflict in Kashmir and sex trafficking of women in Eastern Europe. She teaches photography at U.C. Berkeley?s Graduate School of Journalism and at Stanford University. Chakarova received the 2003 Dorothea Lange Fellowship for documentary photography and the 2005 Magnum Photos Inge Morath Award for her work on sex trafficking.

Visit Mimi Chakarova's Web Site

La Strada
La Strada is part of a pan-European network of organizations working to prevent the trafficking of women in Central and Eastern Europe. The site features information about ongoing campaigns as well as discussion forums around local activities. It also lists publications on the impact of the trafficking trade.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Moldova
The OSCE began its work in Moldova in 1993 in response to the country’s civil war. The mission’s overall aim is to promote greater stability, democracy and economic growth in Moldova. The site publishes reports on human trafficking in the region, including a report on the new legal framework in Moldova established to try to stem the problem.

Center for Social and Economic Development in Moldova
This Moldovan nonprofit, founded in 1996, helps strengthen ties between Moldova and the United States. Partnering with Drexel University in Pennsylvania, the center runs cultural and educational exchange programs that help bring schoolchildren and professionals together from both countries.

Trafficking in Women: Moldova and Ukraine, 2000 Report
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights issued this 60-page report on the trafficking of Moldovan and Ukrainian women for the commercial sex industry. The report analyzes the mechanisms of trafficking in both countries, the governmental response to the problem, and the international obligations of the Moldovan and Ukrainian governments.

Stop Violence Against Women
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights provides an overview of how Moldova’s economic and social conditions have contributed to the country’s sex trafficking. The report also includes links to other studies of sex trafficking in Moldova.

Journey Into Sex Slavery
This Los Angeles Times article from August 2001 tells the story of a young Moldovan woman who ended up being sold into prostitution after being tricked into following a lead on a job as a waitress in Italy.

Escaping Brutal Bondage in Europe
MSNBC reports the story of Natasha, a Moldovan woman tricked into prostitution, then rescued and sent home to her family by a former client.

BBC News
This article describes Moldova’s position as Europe’s human trafficking hub. It also tells the story of one woman’s journey from her mother’s home into prostitution and her return back home.

Radio Free Europe
This article describes why young women from rural areas of Moldova are the most vulnerable to being trafficked.

The United Nations Children’s Fund closely follows the sex trafficking of girls and women in Moldova and provides the latest information.

U.S. Department of Labor
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs reports on updates to the Moldovan government’s attempts at preventing sex trafficking.

U.S. Department of State
This report on human rights in Moldova includes an explanation of the country’s constitution, its police and security forces, and its history of human rights abuses. Section 5 discusses Moldova’s laws regarding sex trafficking and analysis of how those laws have played out.