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Prostitution: Prosperous Purgatory

What is the most ancient profession one can think of? Prostitution, no doubt, and the first proof of this dates back to the second century BC. In the 19th century alongside the image of a female selling her body there forms one of a man living off exploiting this kind of women. First pimps appeared only a couple of centuries ago yet the profession was taken into practice with exceeding speed and is overly widespread today.

Like drugs dealing and weapons trade prostitution brings million-dollar profits. This index puts Moldova in first place among other countries of the former Soviet Union. The annual increase of living expenses in the republic makes honest citizens struggle to survive on the brink of poverty and pay national taxes. Porno dealers on the other hand do not make payments into the budget. That is the reason why Parliament took up the issue of legalizing prostitution. The proposal was not passed yet prostitution became an unofficial business. For over ten years now ads offering girls of all ages and colors are being published in popular national papers. Those seeking to entertain themselves in their leisure time in the sauna or the restaurant in the company of attractive sexy representatives of the opposite sex have only to put out cash. However trouble is just around the corner for adventurers lusting for forbidden pleasure. Every type of place offering services similar to those described has its own fees. It is typically the owner however who gets the larger chunk of the pay while prostitutes on average make from 50 to 100 lei per hour depending on the number of clients and the specificity of their services.

"Prostitution in Moldova is a very well organized crime," said Morals Police captain Vladimir Istrati, "there is a precise structure of operation which includes secretary, office and owner." The secretary is hard to file evidence against because they are most likely to conceal their true activity behind offering exotic services over the phone. Nailing down prostitutes and pimps is easier but until 1998 the fine for being detained for prostitution was a ludicrous 24 lei. After 1998 the sum raised to 1200 lei for first-time assault and 1800 for second assault. Pimps are punished more severely: according to article 222 of the Criminal Code they get 1-5 years of imprisonment with property confiscation upon the verdict of the jury. However pimps often escape deserved penalty due to lack of evidence to prove their guilt. In many cases bribery plays a role not so insignificant in causing so benevolent an attitude towards criminals. There have been plenty of cases when women got minimum service time despite everything that would have been fair to expect. In the two to three recent months of work the police filed two cases but employees themselves doubt whether they will ever get to court.

The imperfections of the system have to be corrected as soon as possible, otherwise the number of places where prostitution thrives will continue to grow and exceed the official of 360-380 by far greater numbers than it does now.

As a result of annual raids the total number of which ranges from 230 to 250 every year individuals involved in the trade are arrested. What makes young pretty women get into this muck of a business? Is it their despondency to escape social downfalls or is it biological need? Talking to them it becomes clear that low pay and few job opportunities as well as need for qualifications and references push women to look for support elsewhere than the legal sphere of professional activity. They are usually from 18 to 25 years old however there are 13 and 15-year-olds involved. Among these women are those with secondary and even higher education that are not willing to work extra hours for a couple of hundred lei, which is not enough to provide for their families and children. A high percentage of those in the trade are women from the countryside who have come to seek better life in the city.

Prostitute Hierarchy

  • Street worker" is the pit of the profession. These women sell their bodies for as little as a dose or a bottle of strong liquor.
  • A "stool" is somebody who works in the bar or restaurant.
  • A "candle" is a woman that attracts clients by standing on the side of the road.
  • "Travelers" take off on long trips with car and truck drivers.
  • "Prostitutes with a roof" are assigned to particular places.
  • "Intergirls" are those at the peak of the careers. These work in expensive hotels accommodating foreigners. They are paid 500 lei per night but have to share with security guards to cover their entrance tax.

Big money circulating in the trade is but one side of the coin. The other is the risk of getting sick and catching a sexually transmitted disease. According to official data the number of people infected with syphilis ranges from eight to ten thousand in Moldova. In reality that number is far greater than statistics. There is also AIDS which is even more dangerous and fatal. American scientists that have been studying AIDS for almost a quarter of a century have discovered that the incubation period for the disease can fluctuate from one to 14 years. This means that infected individuals may be transmitting the disease to their sexual partners and other people without even being aware of carrying it. In Odessa disco and night clubs have precaution signs aimed at preventing any close physical contact between strangers. Latest research has proved that AIDS can be transported even in the process of a kiss.

In Chisinau prostitutes transmit AIDS and other diseases and one of the primary reasons why laws should be redesigned is to prevent the spread of perilous illnesses.

The Police can arrest up to 30 "candles" in one single raid. They are usually on the job on Calea Basarabiei street and ask as little as 20 lei for their services. But these are worth a lot more when those looking for a good bargain spend hundreds of lei on treatment or are left infertile for the rest of their lives.

In the past several years the image of a prostitute has been heavily idealized. Take any of the cheap novels that are sold in dozens off street book stands. Their main heroines are often prostitutes that do not want to work, make money and open their own brothels. In a questionnaire about prestigious jobs prostitution ranks second and third. Right out of the school classroom young girls fooled by blockbuster romanticism become "Pretty Women" and play Julia Roberts' role for real.

Foreigners arriving in Chisinau from all over the world are dazzled by the beauty of Moldovan women the number of which however is decreasing drastically. In the ten years of the ill-fated reforms over 600 thousand women have left Moldova in search of a better future. Some of these are making their bread in Romania, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Macedonia and Germany. Moldovan prostitutes have flooded many different countries. Over 360 girls that have returned to Moldova from a hell on earth tell stories of utmost cruelty and inhuman treatment, of being regarded as chunks of flesh and being deprived of all legal rights.

Something has to be done about prostitution in Moldova before it is too late to treat the malice pervading our society.

Ludmila Mamaliga

Translated by Natalia Corobco

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