Not Natasha

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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
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Dana Popa
The Republic of Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe. Every year, thousands of young girls and women ages 12 to 40 leave the country looking for a better life. An overwhelming majority of these women, especially the younger ones, become sex slaves.


Sex trafficking is the most profitable illegal business here. Acquaintances, close friends, relatives and boyfriends can sell a girl off for a price ranging from $200 to $2,000, depending on the girl's physical appearance.

The strategy is simple enough: they lure women in by offering them jobs in wealthy foreign countries as retailers, nannies or bartenders. They offer to pay their traveling expenses, allowing women to pay them back once they start working. However, once these women arrive in the country of destination, the traffickers immediately confiscate their passports, stick them in brothels and put them to work as prostitutes.

All of the women I photographed are former sex slaves who survived to tell their stories. Some of these pictures were taken at the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) centre, where girls recently rescued from traffickers are sheltered.

All of the women I photographed are mothers. Some of them chose to leave their country in order to offer their children a better life, while others became pregnant while being trafficked. Motherhood unites all of these women: Motherhood either caused them to fall into the sex traffickers' traps, or it was a consequence of the trafficking.

Editor's Note

This project was completed with the help of IOM Moldova and Winrock International.

*Natasha is a nickname given to prostitutes. Sex trafficked girls hate it.

Originally published in Imagining Ourselves.

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