News/Russia: ROADSIDE GIRLS OF RUSSIA SELL SEX FOR POUNDS 2.50

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Subject: News/Russia: ROADSIDE GIRLS OF RUSSIA SELL SEX FOR POUNDS 2.50
From: A. Jordan (annj@hrlawgroup.org)
Date: Thu Oct 21 1999 - 13:06:08 EDT


>[This article has been excerpted.]
>
>The Independent (UK)
>
>23 August 1999
>
>ROADSIDE GIRLS OF RUSSIA SELL SEX FOR POUNDS 2.50
>
>"LOOK OUT for the war memorial," I was told. I had passed
>the town of Torzhok on the highway north from Moscow to St
>Petersburg and left behind two villages with the curious
>names of Bolshaya Kiselyonka (Big Jelly) and Malenkaya
>Kiselyonka (Little Jelly). Where the road turned off to
>Vydrapusk (Otter's Chute), there was an overgrown garden
>with a white plaster statue of Mother Russia, beckoning with
>one hand, with the other protecting a child. Could that be
>it?
>
>On closer inspection, I noticed...the lips of Mother Russia
>and of the child had been painted a bright carmine red. That
>was all. The monument was not defaced in any other way. It
>was hard to be sure. Kids might have done it for a joke.
>
>...when I entered the village of Domoslavl, there could be
>no mistake. A teenage girl, dressed in white like the statue
>and with lips painted the same shade of red, was sitting on
>a bench. Down the whole length of the village, outside the
>fairytale wooden cottages, other girls were sitting on
>benches in the gathering dusk.
>
>It was as my source had said. Here, on the edge of the
>Valdai lake district, one of the most beautiful national
>parks in European Russia, the population was reduced to such
>poverty...young women were selling themselves as prostitutes
>to passing drivers. The war memorial marked the start of the
>sex zone.
>
>Last August, I drove up the same road and saw country people
>hawking buckets of berries, and workers from the Red May
>crystal factory, paid in kind rather than cash, trying to
>sell goblets and vases by the roadside. A year is a long
>time in Russian politics. Three prime ministers have come
>and gone. But ordinary Russians have only got poorer.
>
>How do you start a conversation with a prostitute? In
>Domoslavl, it was all so obvious...the conversation happened
>naturally. "Yes, it's true," the pretty girl in the white
>dress said simply. She introduced herself as Katya. Soon she
>was joined by a fat lass in a white blouse, also called
>Katya. And a woman with straggly blond hair called Ira. And
>a giggly girl in velvet called Vika.
>
>They were working. They were ready to serve clients, to be
>sure. But consciously or unconsciously, they were also
>making a statement. By the identification with the statue,
>they were saying: "We and our country have come to this." It
>was a cry of despair, one they could not or did not want to
>articulate to me. "Some other girls did it," was all they
>said, when I asked who had painted the lips of Mother
>Russia.
>
>With a pimp hovering in a nearby shop doorway - he made a
>note of my car registration number - our conversation was
>necessarily terse. Pretty Katya gave direct, practical
>answers but was not inclined to chat.
>
>The girls earned 50 roubles (pounds 1.25) for oral sex and
>100 roubles for intercourse during daylight hours, she said.
>The rate went up at night. The mafia controlled the business
>and the police took their cut. "Sure, it's dangerous and
>frightening for us," said Katya. "The clients take us off
>the road and we do it in their cars. So far, none of the
>girls has been hurt."
>
>Katya, 21, said she had trained as a hairdresser but there
>was no work in the area. Fat Katya, 18, said...her
>qualification as a seamstress was equally useless as jobs
>were unobtainable. Ira, an older married woman with
>children, said...since her husband was unemployed, she had
>to go on the game to keep the family.
>
>The area north of the industrial city of Tver is, indeed, an
>economic wasteland. Apart from the Red May glass factory,
>turning out crystal...nobody wants, there are few employers.
>The textile factories in the town of Vyshny Volochok are
>dying. Collective farms have collapsed while private
>agriculture has yet to flourish.
>
>The region, with its pine trees and lakes, has great tourist
>potential but the infrastructure is not there to attract
>visitors who can get the same beauty with more comfort and
>service in Scandinavia. Girls who might have made hotel
>receptionists or waitresses turn to the oldest profession.
>
>"If there is nothing for the older generation, then it is
>even harder for the youngsters to find a place in life,"
>said Valya, a retired teacher, tending her goat on the grass
>verge. "It's common knowledge...this [the prostitution] is
>going on. Of course, we don't like it. We find it painful
>and embarrassing. But we all turn a blind eye to it."
>
>"Never happened in my day," laughed Nina Vladimirovna, a
>pensioner. Suddenly she had to dash for the bus, the only
>one of the afternoon in this public transport desert where
>bus and train timetables are made not to co-ordinate.
>
>The police station at Vyshny Volochok, the nearest
>administrative centre, looked like a Wild West jailhouse. On
>the pavement outside, a middle-aged man in a shell suit
>stood smoking with a swaggering youth in a cowboy hat,
>shoelace tie and square-cut black boots.
>
>"Have you got permission from the chief?" asked the junior
>detective inside the station. I answered in the affirmative.
>He agreed to speak on condition...I did not name him.
>
>"What can I tell you about the situation on the road?" he
>said. "We know who all the pimps are. And the
>ex-prostitutes, who are now madams. We know...something
>stands above them. The mafia, Russian in this case, not
>Caucasian. The girls are mostly local. They get transported
>from village to village by minibus.
>
>"...soliciting and exploiting prostitutes are illegal in
>Russia. Of course, the girls are only to be pitied, really.
>We would like to help them but it is a hard struggle. They
>simply won't give evidence against the people using them."
>
>On the street outside again, the shell suit and the cowboy
>had met the police chief. Laughing, they all got into a car
>and zoomed on to the highway.
>
>Returning to Moscow, I passed through Domoslavl once more.
>At a motel outside the village, some "hitchhikers" I had
>seen before were still flagging down cars in the same place
>for the second day running. In the town five lorries were
>parked. "Broken down," said one of the drivers. "I know
>about the girls, poor things. Would never use one. Happily
>married man with kids, hurrying home to the wife."
>
>Five lorries, all broken down in one village. And as I drove
>away, I saw in my mirror a couple of girls approach the
>cabs. Waifs in white dresses. One of the most haunting
>sights in this suffering country.
>


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