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Invisible Men, Disappearing Women

by Archives March 31, 2009

It’s hard to imagine this kind of thing happens: a man promises an acquaintance that he’ll escort his wife to Turkey, but instead of keeping this women safe, he sells her for $1,000 to a pimp. She is now a sex slave in a foreign land.
The wife’s name is Katia. Her husband Viorel is the central character in Sex Slave, a documentary about to lucrative sex trafficking business.
Filmaker Ric Esther Beinstock escorts Viorel to Turkey to help him get his wife back from Appo, the notoriously dangerous pimp who has Katia.
Katia was lured by the promise of money and a better life. The papers in East European countries are filled with classified asking for housekeepers, dancers or singers to work abroad. Although it is commonly known that these adds are untrue, many women try anyways, hoping that they will be one of the ‘lucky ones’ who end up making a decent living. Only 10-15% end up anywhere near what the adds promise.
Most end up working around the clock, locked in a brothel servicing up to 25 men a day and making barely anything.
What saves Sex Slave from feeling overly anthropological is Viorel’s search for his wife coupled with interviews with victims. The filmmakers have certainly tackled the issue head on. The facts they provide would be meaningless if not coupled with their emotional footage, which one can only assume was shot in perilous situations. Full points for bravery.
Unfortunately, the film steps on its own toes too often. The message they convey is worth our long-lasting attention, but the film definitely could’ve been more efficiently packaged.
The CIA estimates that sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business and the large majority of these women come from ex-soviet states. The Ukraine and Moldova provide much of the supply.
Why so many women come from here is questionable. The film doesn’t ever ask this difficult question, but the fact that there is poverty enveloped with zero opportunity has something to do with it. The fact that dreams and promises have been shattered numerous times, and that complete social shifts have exhausted some people’s moral strengths could have something to do with it as well.
But where these women come from isn’t the problem, the demand for them is. Sex Slave forces you to question why someone would want to support this business model, how people can justify selling others and why our governments don’t do more for these women and the men who use them.

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