Going Undercover | Al Jazeera English

Undercover to Expose Sex Traffickers 
| BBC World's Outlook

"The Price of Sex" on Turkish TV
| CNN Turk

Correspondent Confidential
| VICE United States

UN.GIFT catches up with filmmaker Mimi Chakarova
| United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

A Human Life: Priceless No More
| The Ukrainian Week

Review | Global Policy Journal

WOMAN OF THE WEEK: MIMI CHAKAROVA | The Women in the World Foundation

Mimi Chakarova on CNN | Connect The World

Undercover Filmmaker | CNN Freedom Project

Mimi Chakarova on BBC World 

"Slavery 2012" Podcast | The Commonwealth Club of California

Interview with Mimi Chakarova | United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

Embassy of the United States of America | Ottawa

My Defining Moment: Mimi Chakarova | CBC

Video Interview with Mimi Chakarova | Reeling the Reel

Interview with Mimi Chakarova | Channel Guide Magazine

Skin Trade Exposed |

"The Price of Sex" Podcast | Human Rights Watch

"The Price of Sex" | Telegraph21

"The Price of Sex" Is a Work of Art | Huffington Post

The Price of Sex on CNN  

The Price of Sex (Web Exclusive) | Cineaste Magazine

Daniel Pearl Awards Winners Announced | iWatch News

Interview with Mimi Chakarova | Pop Culture Classics

Ten Years Underground: A Photojournalist’s Quest to Expose the Sex Trade | Her Circle e-zine

The Price of Sex: An Investigation of Sex Trafficking | USAID Impact Blog by Mimi Chakarova

The Price of Sex | Variety

Review of 'The Price of Sex' (Bulgarian) Kultura

FILM: So Much More Than Just 'Trafficked Women'

Women in Hollywood indieWIRE

Human Trafficking, The Terrible "Price of Sex" NPR Talk of the Nation (Radio)

Review: Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2011 Film-Forward

Arts Express: Eco-Terrorists, Sex Slaves, And What's Up At The HRW Festival News Blaze (Radio)

Preview of the festival highlighting THE PRICE OF SEX (Russian) Reporter RU

Preview of the festival highlighting THE PRICE OF SEX (Russian)

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival Digs Deep, Asks the Hard Questions HuffPost

Almost Me Snap Judgment (Radio)

Exposing the Sex Traffickers The Crime Report

Journalist-Activist Chakarova Exposes ‘Price of Sex’ SF360

Women Make Movies Nabs Two Human Rights Films indieWIRE

An Interview with Mimi Chakarova Captive Daughters


Sixty-five years after the U.N. General Assembly signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we continue to witness the sale of human beings and the degradation of women's bodies and minds. THE PRICE of SEX gives you a sense of what trafficking does to women.

Now, we would like to hear from you: your reactions to the film and your solutions.  We hope a global conversation will begin and to assist it, the director of THE PRICE OF SEX and her team will respond in real time to your questions and solutions.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Re: I call rubbish about this whole charade.
yes ,you don't reveal your idenity because you are a coward and display beliefs as backwards as the people that traffic these women .poverty can cause desperation to many people but i truly believe these women are tricked into going to other countries for real jobs but when they get there its anything but what they were promised. i think bringing world wide awareness to the problem of human trafficking is a key to prevention.i'm amazed at your lack of empathy for others!! some of the adjectives you use to descibe women gives an insight into your mentality!! you lack knowledge of the world wide problem and your comments lack crediability!!
Re: I call rubbish about this whole charade.
Again, I have to say how much I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. You ask if we made the film to raise awareness. Yes. You'd be surprised how many people don't know what "human trafficking" entails. Which brings me to something else you mention. There is a big distinction between sexual slavery and prostitution. The film is about women sold into prostitution against their will and often locked in apartments, basements, hotel rooms in red light districts -- starved, beaten, gang raped, videotaped -- "If you ever try to run away, we'll send this to your family back home" -- and broken. Am I trying to change things? Absolutely. That's the power of film. It reaches millions and has the ability to raise questions by connecting the dots. Now, you are absolutely correct. It's not a simple solution. Poverty and desperation are at the core of why people get sold. But I grew up in poverty in Bulgaria and during that time, we didn't sell one another or prostitute ourselves. You have to add another element -- the family structure, in many cases, collapsed along with communism. It was the law of the jungle. Those who had resources fled immediately. Those who remained, continued with visions of a better life in the West. And many fell through the cracks of migration. Educating people is not enough. Unless we offer better economic opportunities, young women (and men) will continue to be at risk. The village where I grew up used to have 5,000 residents. A couple of years ago, there were hardly 500 people left. And most were the elderly. I'm sure you've seen many ghost towns with your own eyes. But so far, all we've written about is the supply of the equation -- where the women come from. The demand is what I've been after. I disagree with you on one point. If we throw our hands in the air and say, "This will always exist. It's part of human nature," then we are accepting something that should never be acceptable. In the ten years it took to make this film, people often asked me why I am wasting my time. "These women will never go on camera. These pimps will never talk to you. You can never expose corruption." If I believed these statements, I would have stopped. But there is a greater purpose of exposing what many don't want to see. By raising the public's consciousness, you ask people to think about their own patterns, perceptions, ways they treat one another. I can give you countless examples of conversations I've had with men and women, emails I've received, actions that would have never occurred had I decided years ago that it's all hopeless. I don't think it is and I am the last person to offer you a naive perspective.
I saw this documentary earlier today and was left feeling both overwhelmed by it's honesty and sick from the reality of it all. Hopefully more people will become aware of this problem. It is not just present in the locations featured in the film, but all over the world. I live in a smaller town in Virginia, and human trafficking is prevalent in larger cities just 30 miles away from me. A problem of this magnitude leaves one feeling overwhelmed when thinking of a solution, but awareness is a good place to start. To the creator of The Price of Sex documentary and this website: You have done a great thing by bringing this problem more into the open, and taking the time and effort to create such a powerful documentary. Thank you, and hopefully more people will become aware of the problem of human trafficking and take an initiative to see an end to it.
Re: Reactions...
Thank you, Mr. Hendrickson. I appreciate your kind words.
Hello Mimi, First of all, thank you for the work you have done. I am writing from India and our country has equal or worse stories waiting to be told. I wish somebody would have the courage to do something. I own a company and we've been researching and human trafficking in India for sometime now. It desperately needs to go mainstream and needs something like the documentary you have done. I don't want to go on about our work - because its a mere drop in the ocean. Let me know if you ever come to India... God bless every effort of yours. PS: trying to get a copy of your documentary in India. Any idea how?
Re: India
Thank you for your post. I will definitely let you know if and when I travel to India. And to obtain a copy of "The Price of Sex," please contact our international distributor:
Two Sisters in Moldova
I appreciate your coverage of this abuse of women. Their needs to be more done to stop this. I was particularly touched by the two sisters in Moldova. How are they doing and can donations be sent for their use towards a better life? Keep up the good work.
Re: Two Sisters in Moldova
Please email me at and let me know what you have in mind so I can put you in touch with the right organization. Also, did you take a look at
So Strong and Right!!
While watching this documentary, i cannot expalain, what was going on inside of myself... This movie is the strongest one i watched ever! Strong and Right! While wathcing i was crying, because it's so awfull and heartless!!! This Summer i was going to go to Greece to work, but now i began thinking must i or not? It's really scary me a little. So, i think finally i will stay in my city, not making a risc... Respect for the dyrector of this movie! I am under the strong expression! Sincerelly from Georgia
Re: So Strong and Right!!
Thank you for writing and sharing your reaction to the film. If you decide to go, make sure you do plenty of research and verify the existence of the job through other networks in your country. Also, make sure that many of your loved ones have your contact information and know exactly what type of work you'll be doing. The more people are informed, the more you educate yourself, the better the tools at your disposal.
The two P's that should be discussed in order to find a real solution to human trafficking
I first learned about the trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual slavery when I read Victor Malarek's book, The Natashas some time ago. It is unfortunate to see the problem has only become worse since this book came out. The reason I believe this problem has become worse is because raising awareness about human trafficking is not enough. I loved watching the film, The Price of Sex, but I was frustrated by the Q & A session that followed it. Most of the questions posed by audience members and most of the responses from the director did not focus on the source of the problem, something I call the two P's: Patriarchy and prostitution. Human trafficking will always exist so long as there is prostitution, and prostitution will exist so long as there is gender inequality. To me, it is that simple. If we do not challenge the male privilege and power that perpetuates society's acceptance of prostitution, then human trafficking will continue unabated. Reading some of the comments below only demonstrates to me how much harder feminists need to work in order to inspire people to think critically and challenge the age old notion that “prostitution is the oldest profession”. As Victor Malarek said to his audience when speaking about his book about human trafficking (and I was lucky enough to be there too!), “Prostitution is not the oldest profession; rather, it is the oldest oppression.” Exactly. Thank you, Victor, for telling the truth. To Anonymous Dancer and Jan 12, please stop perpetuating the neo-liberal myth of the “empowered” “happy hooker” who “chooses” to be a prostitute. Sorry, but if there are women who fit this description, they are a very tiny minority. Ultimately, the only difference between a victim of trafficking and other women in prostitution is the type and level of coercion used to get and keep them in the “industry”. Read your own writing on the wall, Anonymous Dancer: “I did meet many women who needed the money much more than I did...” Exactly. Women do not choose to go into prostitution, they are forced into it because of lack of choices to do other work that pays them enough to make a living. Although not as overt, it is still a form of coercion. Poverty can coerce people into doing many desperate things... Mimi, I don't know if you have heard of The F Word Media Collective in Vancouver, but you should really check them out. They have a blog and a radio show. One of the most popular topics they discuss is prostitution. They also (not too long ago) interviewed Victor Malarek about his most recent book about human trafficking, The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It.
Re: The two P's that should be discussed in order to find a real solution to human trafficking
I appreciate your point of view and will keep what you wrote in mind. I've also read both of Victor's books and respect his work. We've shared many ideas on trafficking through the years and why it continues to go on. I'm sorry that my responses after the screening you attended were frustrating. I try to cover the complexity of the issue in the little time given after each screening but I hope the film itself displays the most important facts.
I can't tell you how moved I was by the screening at the Curzon on Friday 23rd March. I have now finished writing up all the notes I took and compiled them into this blog post to help raise awareness: Please do read it if you have time. I hope to write my dissertation on sexual violence next year and this has certainly given me food for thought! Thanks to Mimi for taking so much time out to do the Q&A and to speak to everyone afterwards. Nicole
Thank you, Nicole! And please utilize the resources on this site. There is plenty of relevant information to help with your dissertation. Best of luck!
Human Rights
I just caught this on CNN and decided to look into a bit more. I was a bit discouraged to find out that the the documentary is not as accessible as I would have hoped for it to be. I want to thank you for doing this. I do my own "projects" and I am blown away by what you have just done. You are a hero. I think it is very important that as many people as possible are aware of this. Is it possible for you to set this up for viewing on YouTube? You can set up a monetary charge from it, which will also help deter the "trolls" How much would it cost for me to be able to legitimately to do that myself? I would like to offset the cost by monetization. I believe, there is a demographic of people who will probably never see this, because the idea of "movie screenings, going somewhere to see a movie" is not part of their lifesyle but that does not mean that they do not care. There is a demographic of young people who live on YouTube as well. I was just listening to your podcast on 8:49 I have to agree with you, there is a notion outside of the Gated Community U.S.A. that life is what I like to personally describe as "Disney World" I was born in Russia, to this day I still look for a way to use that to make a difference. I stood around the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and watched as young people exited in tears, as if their lives are over because they did not get a visa to come here. I am fortunate to be a citizen of both countries. Anyways, I just wanted to tell you this, there is a lot more that I would love to share with you, some ideas and such but I am afraid of bringing controversy. Knowing about things like this, bringing this to the attention of people is important, and obviously continuing to do this kind of work is very important. Thank you again, and I might just have to wait for a screening to come around in NYC. Thought I am in my mind thinking of at least seeing if you are interested in having me, well try to do something to organize a screening around here. Things like this really make me sad, I watched the short clip, I know a little bit about these "villages" in Russia. I am really moved by your efforts.
Re: Human Rights
Oleg, you have a good point and we will show the film online but a little bit more time has to pass in order to do this the right way. I also want to urge you to come to our next screening in New York. It will be this April and I'll post the details very soon.
Thank you
Mimi, just to share my first raw reactions to the content of the website: It makes me nauseous, sick to my stomach. Makes me feel helpless and overwhelmed. Makes me so outraged. Outraged. Makes me feel grateful for the work that you do. And it absolutely breaks my heart, to tears, to unspeakable pain. At 19, I left Russia to go to NYC. For work. I never went back. Ten years later, I am an educated professional with a passion for what I do, and with choices to not do that, if I wanted so. Somewhere between luck, my own sense of apprehension, and a set of circumstances, I never became one of the characters so gracefully portrayed in your movie. In one of your video segments you question: "I wonder what would have happened to me if I never left?" I, too, wonder that... I wonder how many times, have walked a line between becoming a slave, becoming someone's property, a thing, a cheap sell...and finishing my doctorate in psychology. Two extremes. Yet, what a fine line. The stories just made it all real for me again. And reminded me that I have an honor and responsibility to do lots of work in this arena. Thank you.
Re: Thank you
Your words mean the world to me. Truly. Thank you. Yes, walking that line... That was one of the main reasons for making the film.
Sara Kruzan
Your documentary has so many striking similarities to the Sara Kruzan story. She is a child sex trafficking victim serving 25 years to life in California.
Re: Sara Kruzan
I don't know about Sara Kruzan's story but will take a look. Thank you for sharing.
Very much truth with a tremendous need!
After living in Eastern Europe for the past eleven years as an American born citizen, I know for sure that the reporting here is very accurate and true. Even though the facts may be somewhat shocking and even downright disgusting; the cold, hard truth is that desperation and poverty are for sure the two most exploited weaknesses sought out by "human traffickers". We are privileged to have an opportunity to interact with children and young people along with their families who are willing to listen. It is my heartfelt desire to do much more to alleviate this atrocity here in Romania, as well as in other developing former soviet-bloc nations. Two mandatory ingredients are urgently needed and seriously lacking in the battle; that being finances for logistical tactics and personnel (manpower) to implement the needed strategy to combat this evil and the well-organized forces behind it. "Human-trafficking" affects all aspects of life and your very own family could very well be the next target and victim of this ruthless crime of humanity even if you live in America. I appreciate this chance to speak out and share only a small word of what I know to be the tip of a mighty and powerful iceberg!
Re: Very much truth with a tremendous need!
You are absolutely on point! I couldn't agree more with you. Thank you for such an intelligent and thoughtful comment.
It's so hard to comprehend....
Mimi, I had the opprotunity to watch your film on the doc channel tonight. Thank you for such a well done documentary. I am aware of human trafficking, but you have truely opened my eyes. I am deeply disturbed that many families of the girls had no clue, or no care to know where their daughters were. Is this truely the case, or are the families just unaware of the risks when their daughters leave home? I understand that opprotunity is scarce, but are there no programs or orginazations that can step in to help educate the families while the girls are still young? Or perhaps an adoption program to offer more opprotunities for their daughters? My heart went out to the teenagers you interviewed who were so trusting and young. I watched through tears, asking God why, and thanking Him at the same time for my daughter and all I have been blessed with. God bless you for the work you are doing and may He be with you on your quest to do what is right.
Re: It's so hard to comprehend....
There are plenty of organizations that do amazing work and spread awareness, but education is not enough. Unless women are offered the opportunities to have decent lives and employment, they will continue falling in the traps of traffickers. Desperation and vulnerability are two factors that traffickers and pimps rely on. Not to mention the steady demand for young flesh. We need to address the issue of trafficking on both levels -- supply AND demand. My hope is that the more people know about the brutality of slavery, the more willing they would be to step outside their own comfort zone and get involved.
Your Documentary on Sex Trafficking
Dear Mimi, What an eye opening documentary, thank you so much for caring enough to do this and also for your courage. As was mentioned in the Documentary, we are not "really" aware of it the United States and I think that many people would not choose to believe this grim truth, it is unimagineable that in this day in 2012 that this is happening to so many young girls and women. Do you believe it to be true that many of the citizens do not know how to live and function in a democracy as we have always had in America, that if they had been transmissioned (for lack of a better word) into a different way of living that possibly their countries could or would be thriving? I ask this in sincerity in trying to find a solution to this fate that has come upon so many women. I was astonished at the numbers mentioned in your documentary. I can not express in words the effect of this documentary on my own very emotions. I personally understand not only how they could be deceived but more importantly how it has to have ruined many lives. Such emotional scars do not go away. It is slavery and it is abuse. I don't know what can be done, but as many billions as our government invests in other countries (and I would guess Turkey to be a beneficiary of such funds), why couldn't we do something for places like Meldova. Thank you for enlightening me, and I hope that you reach to all ends of the earth in your quest to try and stop this.
Re: Your Documentary on Sex Trafficking
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Human trafficking is a huge problem in the U.S. as well -- both foreign women and children brought here from Asia, Central America and Eastern Europe as well as underage American girls trafficked from state to state. I encourage you to find out more. The Polaris Project in Washington D.C. has done a lot of work in the anti-trafficking movement. Also, the U.S. State Department publishes the Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP) every year and you can download it free of charge.
Where can I watch the film?
I'm in Montreal and I've missed the Concordia screening and the TV one tonight by a couple of hours... Is there a place online? A dear friend of mine got lured into another country with a group of girls, under the false promises of a gig for their folk dancing ensemble. They got drugged up, their passports taken away - and even though I don't know the full story, I learned from a mutual friend later that she committed suicide shortly after coming back home. She was a free spirit and a gentle soul, and it's bitter-sweet that I got reminded of her today, after decades of blocking it out of my memory. It's so profoundly sad and infuriating at the same time! I need to see your film.
Re: Where can I watch the film?
The story of your friend is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, there are many young women who never live to see justice served. Thank you for sharing her story and keeping her memory alive. We don't have any upcoming screenings in Montreal but if that changes, I'll let you know. And "The Price of Sex" is not available online yet -- it is still shown at festivals, independent cinemas and on television.
Is a French version of the film available or in the works?
A number of us would like to see it screened or aired on Canadian TV.
Re: Is a French version of the film available or in the works?
Not yet but we are working on it as well as in many other languages.
Re: Is a French version of the film available or in the works?
Looking forward to it, as the film has generated much interest in Franch Canada and is being advertised on progressive European websites such as that of the European Women's Lobby. If I can be of help, I'll be glad to: I am an experienced translator of both print and audio-visual feminist documents.
Hello... After discovering this website today, i have spent almost 4 hours watching and reading every post there is and it sickens me to death how these "pimps" and sex traffickers are doing to these poor young innocent women. I also want you to know that here in my country of residence (BAHRAIN), there are so many similar stories to the ones i have read on your website. Girls and woman here are being harassed and embarrassed on a daily basis and in large quantities. Just like the article you have about DUBAI, i think it might even be worse in BAHRAIN. there are so many brothels or whatever they are called and sex houses, it is a shame to see and know that this is happeneing to women here, and it hurts me so much that i cannot do anything on my own to stop this. I kindly ask of you to direct me or tell me what to do on starting to raise awareness in BAHRAIN about sex trafficking, abuse, and just humiliation of these woman who are from over 30 nationalities. Please inform me on how i can get your video the one you are screening to raise awareness, in order for me to do the same here on this small island of Bahrain where woman are being terrorized and harassed, mostly by men from SAUDI ARABIA, who cross the "King fahad causeway" connecting saudi arabia to bahrain, so they can come drink alcohol (where it is banned in their country, as well as see woman drink/drive/dress in normal clothing as opposed to saudi where there are strict laws on covering up). I BEG for you to guide me on what to do to just try to stop or decrease this from happening where i live. It sickens me on a daily basis thinking of these women, and what they have to go through, especially knowing that they are not doing it by choice, but by FORCE by these low life and dirty so called pimps. Awaiting your reply/email.. Thanking you in advance.
Dear Ms. Almughrabi, Thank you for writing, for spending time on this site and for your willingness to help. The first thing I would urge you to do is find out if there are any shelters for women in Bahrain. Often those trafficked are detained and then deported back to their countries of origin, but in certain instances and depending on their location, the women also spend time at shelters where they can receive medical and psychological assistance. If there is such a place, get involved by offering your help. Another way is to look up NGOs in Bahrain that work on issues of gender, migration and violence. They are often short on staff and supplies and can always benefit from more people who want to make a difference. But first and foremost, what's critical is to expose what is going on. If you have friends who are journalists and willing to investigate the sex trade in Bahrain, you can contribute by sharing what you know with them. I am sure that there are a number of clubs and hotels that are well known for the nature of "business" they conduct. If people don't know what is happening around them, they are living in darkness. I applaud you for your willingness to act on something that we absolutely should never tolerate. My best wishes, Mimi Chakarova
Law School Screening!
Hi Ms. Chakarova, I am a law student at a Canadian University, and I have recently completed some extensive research into human trafficking. I think it would be really amazing--and really interesting to the students at my law school--if they had the opportunity to watch your film! If there is a possibility of screening or simply getting a copy of the film for that purpose, please contact me by email! Thanks very much!
Re: Law School Screening!
Of course. I'll put you in touch with our distributor, Women Make Movies.
Jan 12 screening
I saw your film at Harold Washington Library in Chicago tonight and I want to thank you for sharing your work with us and coming out to Chicago (in such poor weather!) First, I was overwhelmed by the depth, detail and balance between emotion and objectivity in the film. What hit me the most were the interviews with the social and legal aid workers regarding the root causes of trafficking. I've read Sheper-Hughes work on organ trafficking, also in Moldova, also through Istanbul; and I've been following the exponential expansion surrogacy tourism in India and Eastern Europe; your film really put a face on part of that world. Regarding what to do, I think your comments on increasing job opportunities were dead-on. I think also creating agencies that facilitate screened, legitimate employment and raising awareness among sex workers and sex work clients about trafficking (as opposed to consensual prostitution) is important. The later point is especially important for can we raise awareness of trafficking and educate individuals willingly working in the industry or clients on how to spot instances of trafficking and help women who have been trafficked? I worked as an escort, in strip clubs, etc. in Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.; clients frequently talked about other women in the industry (in a positive, nostalgic, non-degrading way) with me. Some clients had done sex tourism in eastern Europe or have come into contact with Eastern European women. I am 99% positive that none of the men I've come into contact with working would ever want to buy sex from a woman coerced into prostitution. Some explicitly expressed concern over this. Others had ongoing email friendships with eastern European women in the sex trade. One client gave me 2000 euro to donate to TAMPEP. I've always worked on the nicer side of the industry, and so these clients are how I actually became aware and concerned about exploitation and trafficking. On the other hand, I have relatives in Athens who definitely go to at least strip clubs and have mentioned Eastern European woman; a friend who studied in Istanbul knew a bunch of students who liked russian prostitutes because they were attracted to blonde women and regularly went to the red light district. I don't think they have 'sex trafficking' in mind at all. So the subject matter of your film was especially poignant from a personal perspective. And it made me reflect and realize that there are huge national and class differences regarding awareness of and concern over trafficking and exploitation. And I think that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed by delineating between exploitative and voluntary prostitution, and by reaching out to clients, for example, on web forums. I know many people think the later does not exist...but it definitely does. Look at SAAFE (support and Advice for Escorts) Look at look at punternet or the erotic review or You'll find current or former college students, paralegals, nurses, MD residents, social workers, executive assistants involved in the industry. And there are also (I know them) poor women and foreign women who voluntarily enter the sex trade to improve their financial circumstances and fund credentialing. I know women who started off as au pairs and waitresses who ended up in the sex industry. So it's complicated, but I think that you really need to get men who buy sex on board. They're the individuals who have access to the industry, and thus the capacity to help (as was the case with the woman in Dubai...but why did it take 9 months? Why didn't this happen sooner?) And they're also the demand. Eliminate demand for trafficked women and create above-the-board migration opportunities, you eliminate trafficking. It's not a cost-problem. In Germany, it's a 20 euro difference between going to a legal above-the-board brothel and going to one filled with women who are in coercive situations. In the U.S., there is a 30, 40 dollar difference between seeing a nurse/social worker/college student working independently part-time for kicks/savings/spending money and going to an organized massage parlor full of migrants, (if any difference at all.) Thank you again for your work,
Re: Jan 12 screening
Thank you very much for sharing observations from your own experience and for agreeing to post your comment on the site. I also really appreciate you coming to the screening this week.
Law Enforcement
Mimi, Like anyone who hears about this subject, I am disturbed. I find this information heartbreaking and I do plan to help in some way. However, I would very much appreciate it if you could explain something to me. Whenever I hear about these terrible things I wonder why these traffickers aren't arrested by polices and thrown in jail? If investigative reporters can get inside these groups, can't the police do the same? Is it a matter of resources or priorities. I can't imagine any law enforcement in the U.S. allowing this to go on but I am aware that this has happened in the U.S. as well. Please forgive my ignorance. I just want to understand to I can better think about how I might be able to help.
Re: Law Enforcement
Dear Mr. Swanson, You ask a valid question. Indeed, law enforcement in the U.S. and throughout the world is making an effort to put traffickers behind bars but it takes a long time to build these cases and often the sentences don't reflect the crimes. Also, keep in mind that many countries face dire corruption in addition to poorly trained police units and agents who still don't take the trafficking of human beings as seriously as the trafficking of arms and drugs. And lastly, the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act was only passed in 2000. The Palermo Protocol (the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime is responsible for implementing it) entered into force in 2003. As you can see, we have a long way to go. The good news is that the U.S. State Department has requested to use "The Price of Sex" documentary film as a training tool in embassies throughout the world. Little by little, through credible information, dialogue and exposure in the media (like the CNN photo slideshow that you saw yesterday), we can raise the public's consciousness and put pressure on those capable of implementing change. Thank you for your comment and I hope I was able to answer your question.
Conflating human trafficking with all sex industry work
I attended the first screening of your documentary in Vancouver. I was very curious to see how you would present the very important issue of human trafficking. I had hoped that you would present this issue as an important global problem that all people can work towards preventing and eliminating, including sex industry workers who are potentially the most effective allies in the fight against human trafficking. On the other hand, my fear was that you would conflate human trafficking with ALL forms of sex industry work. Unfortunately, for many women in North America, and around the world, you did the latter. From the film and the discussion afterwards, it became clear that you believe that ALL sex work is violence against women. However, you did not interview women who engage in the sex industry with full consent and free of coercion. You decided instead to speak for those women and you referred to them as victims. Well, I am one of those women who has fully consented to engage in sex industry work as an exotic dancer for the past 11 years and I have never felt coerced to do anything against my will. Furthermore, I have worked in many countries and have worked with hundreds of women from around the world and I have never met a woman who was trafficked. I did meet many women who needed the money much more than I did, and this was reflected in their work ethic, however, many of these women were happy to be able to ply their trade in different parts of the world and make thousands while their family members back home made $60 a month working as a nurse, for example. While I am not denying that human trafficking exists and that it is a massive problem that we must all work toward eliminating, it is essential to present the issue of human trafficking as separate from other types of consensual sex industry work. There is much diversity of experience within the sex industry and by presenting ALL sex work as violence against women you are denying the agency and human rights of a whole group of women in an effort to save another group of women. Because the issue of human trafficking evokes a huge emotional response from everyone,governments are easily able to implement policies that hinder the ability of women to move across borders in an effort to make money in the sex industry. Additionally, it does nothing to remove the stigma or improve the working conditions of sex industry workers who choose to engage in sex industry work.
Re: Conflating human trafficking with all sex industry work
"The Price of Sex" is not a film about women who choose to work in the sex industry. Anyone who's watched the film can see that it's about slavery and young women who were deceived, broken and exploited to the fullest. I am glad you came to the screening in Vancouver. After the screening, the gentleman who posted two comments below, asked me what I thought about legalizing prostitution and what my personal opinion is on this issue. Again, if you look at countries like Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, etc etc, and ask yourself whether their legalization has reduced numbers of trafficked women, the answer is NO. And if you talk to men in these places and ask them why they don't go to the legal and regulated brothels, the answer is: "I can go to the red light district, find illegal women, much younger and from all over the world, and get them for cheaper. I also don't have to use condoms if I pay a little extra." My goal in making this film is to give trafficked women a platform to tell their stories and end the stigma and shame in the communities in which we were raised. I also wanted to expose the corruption that allows trafficking to continue. If you and your colleagues feel like your voice isn't heard, I encourage you to make a film that's about women who choose to work in the sex industry. This is not what "The Price of Sex" is about. You write that it's "essential to present the issue of human trafficking as separate from other types of consensual sex industry work." I don't think that anyone who sees "The Price of Sex" would ever argue that the women I've interviewed were part of the consensual sex industry. If they were, they would not have been jumping out of buildings, giving birth to children after months of being pimped out and gang raped or worrying about being HIV positive because the clients refused to use protection. This is all in the film. I encourage people to see it with their own eyes and determine whether it's about all sex industry work or about sex slavery and why it continues to exist.
Re: Conflating human trafficking with all sex industry work
Hello Mimi, thank you for your response. I am not saying that your film is about ALL sex industry work - it is obviously about women who are forced to perform sexual services against their will in extremely exploitative environments. This is evident and well-documented by you. However, after the screening of the film a male audience member asked how he could help to put an end to human trafficking. Your suggestion was that he, and everyone else in the audience, stop watching porn and stop visiting strip clubs. The problem is that many of the women who work in strip clubs and in porn are there because they choose to be there, myself included. And like I said previously, in 11 years as a sex worker who has worked in Canada, Japan, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, and the Carribean I have never met a trafficked woman. Next, I raised my hand and asked you if you considered willing sex workers to be contributing to the issue of human trafficking and you said that you don't think any women work in the industry consensually and that you have never met a women who does. This statement is also problematic because you are sending the message that all sex industry work is violence against women and this is not the case. Like I said previously, I have enjoyed my 11 years in the industry and have never felt violated or mistreated. And there are many more like me. You also made the comment that you would never want to work in the sex industry...well, there are probably many other jobs that you would not want to do but you don't condemn the people who perform them, do you? I applaud your efforts to provide a platform for these women to tell their stories - you have succeeded in this regard. All I ask is that you please be careful to tell only their stories and not speak for the women who you claim do not exist.
Re: Conflating human trafficking with all sex industry work
Anonymous dancer, The existence of female sex industry for the pleasure of men is a disgrace for women in itself. If mimi's documentary did touch up on ALL sex industry I would applaud her for the courage to speak up against male promiscuity. Male promiscuity is at the root of a lot of the problems society has to put up with. You having a good time in this odd job, doesn't in itself make male promiscuity acceptable. Against female sex industry for the pleasure of men
Re: Conflating human trafficking with all sex industry work
Thank you for this, Anonymous Dancer. I will keep in mind what you wrote and focus on what the film is about. I appreciate your input.
Sex trafficking vs. Sex Work: The Legalization Issue
Thank you for taking the time to document the important topic of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. I thought you very carefully and respectfully told these stories within the larger structural context of the dissolution of the Soviet Block. I was surprised to hear that you grouped together sex work (specifically the legalization of sex work) and sex trafficking. No one is arguing to legalize human trafficking, be it for sex or migrant labour etc. There has been some very important work done around the legalization of sex work so the women and men who are involved in it are not considered criminals and can have better access to health services. Vancouver especially has had immense success with harm reduction models for drug users with safe injection sites (e.g. decreased crime in the neighbourhood, increased access to rehab, decreased over-dose, and very importantly decreased rates of HIV infection), and this same model is applied to sex work. There are many sex work alliances with moto's along the lines of 'nothing about us, without us' or 'rights not rescue - only the rights will stop the wrongs'. Criminalizing sex work, in many ways criminalizes women and infringes on their human rights. Many thanks for your tireless efforts, I wish you all the best.
San Diego
Mimi, I live in SD and have been out of town for several weeks, I returned today and logged on and saw you were in town yesterday. I am so sorry I missed the screening, I had been looking forward to seeing your film. Hope that I will have another opportunity in the future. Take care. Michael
Re: San Diego
We have another screening tomorrow night, October 10th at 7 PM at the University of California, San Diego at the International House Great Hall. I hope you can make it. If not, I'll be back to San Diego in early 2012 for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Thank you for your interest in "The Price of Sex."
Hi Mimi, We met at the VIFF and shared the merits of two-wheeled sanctuaries. I have pondered the nature of Johns and Prostitutes. Your film seems to be a study of the more dramatic paths for some to that place. Still the only way I can reconcile the reality of prostitution and that it transpires is accepting the possibility that there is script and elements in play which make it so. My mum has a Chinese saying that "it's not easy being a person"... especially when things are tough. It allows her to be empathetic when she would not normally. She may have experienced directly the Japanese invasion in China and lost her mother during this incursion. She may herself have been accosted as she has demons that haunt her to this day. Being human. Time and experiences teaches us many things, for we are so naive in the ways of the world in our youthful perceptions. Mentioned that we need to unravel our illusions. Such that beauty and sex may hold power over men, and that men believe money and size invite greatness. All of it, a unfulfilling substitute for self-esteem. At some point in youth and into adulthood, some lose connection with their joy, beauty, and innocence. They unconsciously search for, but only reach outside of themselves to grasp it. What we represent to each other no matter what the interaction, is key to what torments us. Most of the desired prostitutes represent youth, innocence and vulnerability, and in this the men feel lack. Also suggest that men's bravado avoids the appearance of weakness and they delude themselves, using sex as a means to access comfort and nurturing. They are unconsciously looking for that experience to save themselves or make them feel cared for . and conversely, women offer love as the doorway to address their unresolved or repressed base desires. If the need is there, we need to curb the need and that is addressed by looking compassionately at the core of the problem. Some men are homely, isolated and without affection. Sometimes some skin, any warm skin is contact sorely needed. Society needs to affirm the nurturing abilities of men to show they are capable of giving that which they think they need. An uphill climb, but there are a few ok men out there. One can easily observe when a child has a very fragile center. Our society fosters the subordinate role of women and too often, women buy into this position. Women need empowerment which does not depend on their sexuality, appearance, or their subservience. The family is the crucible which can help forge the spirit of these young women into courageous adults. Stronger role models and healthier family environments. Would be imperative to eliminate the middle men and women who profit at the misery of others, by changing the conditions of the interactions for those who partake. Hard to say if Vegas is a good example of a safer environment for the women. Married couples do not escape this binding strangle hold either; when they marry out of security or convenience. We are multifaceted creatures and the intricate unconscious which guides our days takes us down many roads. Being human means we will endure experiences which will reveal many difficult understandings. Life is a complex arena with a lot of determining factors.
Re: script
I encouraged you to post this precisely because of what you wrote to me: "It is my function to illuminate the unpopular opinion." I think these are all important points to consider -- the way we define ourselves as women, as men... And you are right -- many men seek acceptance and comfort. But the majority use sex as power and when they pay for the young women you saw in the film (many were not even old enough to be considered women,) they took a lot more than what they paid for. It's violence in its most brutal and irreversible form. I've met too many girls who've lost their light, who are walking ghosts. And this is exactly why I think we need to go deeper. I agree with you. We need to change the core of our values as people. Not only in Canada, the U.S., or isolated parts of the world that encourage anonymous consumerism and indulgence of desires and wants with disregard to the value of another's life -- we need to seriously rethink our priorities worldwide. The first step, in my opinion, is to encourage an honest and multifaceted discourse. Thank you for contributing to that.
Re: script
I was in Cuba a couple of years ago. They are a somewhat desperate people. There is little work, save tourism, and the government frowns big time on prostitution. I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant and across from me was a middle-aged blonde lady feeding a young Cuban man. I thought to myself, how goes the fantasy Lady? The Cuban men flaunt themselves around the foreign women and the women titillated, welcome the attention. Apparently some crazy number like 50,000 wealthy ladies go to Jamaica and the likes to get their grove on. For sure, not the same but is this exploitation also, with moral implications? What common vein runs through people who want for sexual experiences? and are willing to pay for it.... The scope of people who partake in prostitution is far reaching, the brutality you have depicted is a considerable slice of the scene, but not the whole. Some days, i am tired and i accept, it is what it is. and i do what i can to be respectful, and honest with myself.
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