The Price of Sex: Women Speak

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2009-08-17 09:01:11 / News read 1650 reading

Photographer Mimi Chakarova spent seven years delving into the world of sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, even going undercover to document the situation. The result is an intimate multimedia portrait of these women's lives.

For the seven-year-long investigative series, Chakarova delved deep into the murky world of sex trafficking, interviewing dozens of women--and even posing as a trafficked woman herself. The result is a handful of profiles, narrated through photography, video and audio, which paint a picture of what these women must endure. Chakarova, in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting, based in Berkeley, Calif., brought these stories to the public in May of this year.

They launched a Web site that unites these women's stories with resources on the issue, allowing people to take action, donate or learn more. Over the course of the project, Chakarova estimates that she spoke with up to 50 women from Eastern Europe who had been trafficked. At times, her subjects were so traumatized that she could not bring herself to continue interviewing. "You feel 'Why am I doing this?' It's painful. In those cases I did not push," Chakarova told Women's eNews in a phone interview.

Chakarova hopes the Price of Sex films will be disseminated in high schools as part of public service campaigns across Eastern Europe, where women--particularly rural ones and single mothers--are most susceptible to being trafficked because of a lack of education and job opportunities. But she admits that sometimes her message is misconstrued. After "Price of Sex: Moldova" aired on PBS Frontline in March 2007, her editors called to say that a viewer in Hungary had written a disturbing comment. "His comment said more or less 'Yeah, Moldovan women are the cheapest. My buddies and I can get two Moldovans for the price of one Hungarian woman.' I said we absolutely have to post this comment. It shows how people can watch women be completely degraded, and say 'Yeah, it's a bargain,'" she said. Chakarova says she has to make a conscious effort to temper her attitudes towards men. "I have to be very careful to understand that I've entered darkness, but I have to remind myself that's not the full picture, that there's a lot of goodness out there. And a lot of men who do not engage in paying for sex," she said.

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