There are an estimated 794,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Russia (GSI 2018). Women and children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in prostitution and pornography. Women are lured by the promise of lucrative employment and a new location, travelling to the country under the pretence of legitimate employment and a better life. However, when they arrive, they are forced into prostitution in brothels, hotels and saunas. There is also evidence of traffickers advertising sexual services of children online. However, despite the evidence of sex trafficking in Russia, it remains an under-recognised area of enslavement in the country.
Aizere*, A 16-year old girl from Kazakhstan was sold by her parents to a man who promised her work at a market. Her documents were forged and upon arrival in Russia she was forced into prostitution.
There were six children in our family. I am the second. There [in Kazakhstan] people live in poverty, lacking electricity and water. Sometimes we didn’t even have bread at home. My mother made ends meet by occasional earnings, and my father spent everything on drink. I was thinking about how to get out of this situation, to help my brothers and sisters and do something for myself. And I met a man by chance. He proposed that I could earn money at market. He came to my parents - I am underage - and proposed that I work at a market in Smara. He paid money to my parents so that they would let me go to Samara.
[How much did your parents pay?]
I can’t say exactly the sum. Approximately US$300, it was quite a sum, and they let me go. I agreed. After my parents gave their consent a problem arose: how to pass through the border? He [the trafficker] had taken care of all the problems himself and made legal documents saying that I was his underage daughter. I do not know how he managed it, but I crossed the Kazakh-Russian border by train as his daughter. It is very easy to pass our border, practically nobody asked for documents and we calmly, without encountering any obstacle, passed through. During our journey he treated me well, as a daughter. Moreover, I myself was in a good mood, as I was going to the market to earn money. As soon as we arrived at a flat he immediately put a question to me. I was told that I had no documents and would work as a prostitute or they would kill me. If I worked voluntarily, everything would be normal and they would pay me. If not, they threatened me with physical punishment. I did not give my consent. They just began beating me. They tied me up. They kept me tied for five days without food. I wasn’t even allowed to drink water. They evidently wanted to break my will.
Yes [sexual activity took place].
Yes [he raped me].
I had no choice. I had to agree. They took me to another apartment, where other girls like me were held. They took me with there with guards. Another guard was in the apartment; there were bars on the windows and an iron door, like a prison. It was impossible to escape, not even worth contemplating. It lasted two months, they took me to clients and brought me back. Always under guard.
No, I was paid nothing, and not even always fed.
Once when we were driving to a client, our car was involved in an accident. Our guard and the driver went to settle the matter. While they were having it out, a quarrel took place and I just ran away. I ran to a main road and stopped a car that was going to Omsk. A driver took me there.
Yes I did [explain the situation to him]. And he agreed to bring me to Omsk.
I do not know [what I am going to do now]. I’d like to get home somehow. I am thinking about it right now.
Narrative credit to International Labour Organization
Original narrative found in report ‘Forced Labour in the Russian Federation Today: Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Human Beings’