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.
Galyna*, a 25-year-old woman from Donetsk (Ukraine) worked at a bar in Moscow. In addition to dancing, her employer forced her to perform sex-services for clients, though this was not agreed prior to employment. She had no written contract and received payment from clients and her employer in cash. She was also forced to perform services, such as unprotected sex, under threat of non-payment and dismissal. No social security or health care was provided, and she had no registered place of residence. When stopped by the police in the street, she had to pay bribes. Her relatives in Ukraine did not know what she was doing in Moscow. She sent money home to help her parents and hoped to find another job. Only migrants work at the club and they knew next to nothing about their employer.
I came from Ukraine, wages are very low there. Besides, my family situation was unstable. I have higher education, and I intended to work in real estate. I came to see a female friend [in Russia]. The majority of my friends came here, they are very well settled. My friend got me acquainted with an employer - the owner of a night-club. The employer immediately took away my passport but afterwards gave it back.
I had no choice and I already knew that I would earn much money. I also had to pay for a room...
No, I have already been in great debts. I borrowed money to travel, I had to buy a suit, pay for lodging and have something to live on. They gave me certain sum and I had to work it off. I am still in debt to him.
Yes, I work more time and do other accompanying things. It is very difficult for me here. But to go home - it would be awful. There is no possibility to live in Ukraine. My parents earn nothing at all there.
Foreign workers are hired more willingly because they are less protected and they can be forced....these clubs seem to form an organized business, as each has in some way a kind of relationship with the others. But I know nothing - If I know less, I live longer.
[Talking about the trafficking of girls to other clubs]
You mean slave trafficking?
It is possible. Of course such attempts took place.
But I tried to settle in the same place, as it is less of a headache.
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’