Sex work in Russia -- criminalizing it doesn't help, but what does?

Criminalized sex work (or prostitution-- depending on where you stand in that argument) is one of those problems that everyone knows exists, but nobody knows how to solve. 

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Sex work in Russia -- criminalizing it doesn't help, but what does? - NewsMavens
Curb crawling, prostitute in conversation with a punter, Germany, Europe. East News

Why this story matters:

In Russia, prostitution is criminalized by a small fine, paid by the sex worker herself, and the client is exempt from any responsibility. Pimping can be punished by a heftier fine, or a prison sentence (although it's seldom enforced).

The story recommended below explains why this approach is problematic, and compares criminalization with full legalization in Germany.

And although the situation in Germany is very different from that of Russia, there's one common trait -- the absolute majority of sex workers start working in this industry because they need money.

Unfortunately, this article doesn't give much consideration to the third approach (also known as the Nordic model and which has already been used in Sweden and several other countries) which is to stop punishing sex workers and start fining their clients, while also investing heavily into social support and education for the women who want to leave the field of commercial sex.

It does, however, convey some important information about the kind of corruption and abuse of power that springs up around criminalized sex work. It also shows how inequality and poverty is the reason for its spread -- in Russia, the number of sex workers has been growing over recent years due to the economic crisis. And this is why in Germany most of the sex workers are immigrants from poorer Eastern European countries.

Details from the story:

  • There are about 1 million declared sex workers in Russia (with a population of 140 million) but the numbers could be as high as 3 million.
  • The majority of them come from a vulnerable background, with no social support to speak of, and few opportunities to earn money.
  • The most vulnerable are young women who grew up in orphanages. A third of them end up in sex work. The reason for that is lack strong social connections and crucial life skills.
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