Valeria insists on trying on her mum's favourite dress. No one knows anything of her mother. She left for Moscow more than two years ago.
"...for me it is essential that the audience can see the women who went through this ordeal that I am photographing. They exist."
"Natasha is a nickname given to prostitutes with Eastern European looks. Sex-trafficked girls hate it." —Dana Popa
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Traveling from London to her birthplace in Eastern Europe Dana Popa recorded the plight of sex-trafficked women from Eastern Europe. Sold by friends, family or even their husbands for sometimes just a few hundred dollars, these women and girls live a tawdry and dangerous life on the fringes and in the shadows of our culture.
Sex trafficking is the most profitable illegal business. It often begins with the offer of a well-paid job in a world of dreams. The moment the woman agrees to take the job of a retailer, nanny, bartender or something innocuous like this, the business starts running. She will have all the documents and travelling expenses paid by the traffickers, with the obligation of returning the debt out of her first month’s income.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of the main trafficking source countries for women and children. In Moldova a third of the workforce lives and works abroad, and, in 2006, 80% of households remained unable to generate a subsistence income. Female unemployment, as Popa tells us, may well be as high as 68%. The consequence is that those who are most vulnerable, young women, often no more than children, are most at risk.
It is estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad - up to 10% of the female population. These staggering numbers make Moldova the main exporter of ‘sex slaves’ for the European continent. Increasingly, Moldova has also become a major destination for sex tourism. This exacerbates the problem by creating internal sex trafficking.
In Moldova, Popa worked with the International Organisation for Migration Shelters and Winlock International where she was given access to photograph and document the experiences of 17 women who had been trafficked. In 2008 Autograph ABP commissioned Popa to return to Moldova where she began to collect the stories of the disappeared and photograph the families, the homes and in some cases the children who have been left behind. Finally, Popa returned to the UK where she documented the spaces where the trafficked women work as prostitutes in the brothels of Soho, London.
"In the summer of 2006, I went to the Republic of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, and the main exporter of sex slaves for the whole continent. I went to see how they managed to live with the traumas they had experienced in a world that knows nothing about their suffering; how they lived under a huge shadow of fear that a mother or husband might find out and throw them out in the street. I stepped into a shelter for survivors of sex trafficking.
Click HERE for information about Dana Popa.
All images are Archival Pigment Prints.
|Maria was abandoned by her husband on the grounds that the baby she gave birth to after she escaped sexual slavery was not his.||
Ana’s new born baby.
Nadia is turning 18. Very fragile. Now she is laughing her head off, next minute she is crying. The psychologist confirms she was sold by her mother in Turkey.
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