Shortlist 2018

Tatiana Vinogradova

The Problem


The documentary project "Girls" is directed at the problem of prostitution in Russia. According to data collected by numerous nonprofit organizations, there are around three million female sex workers in Russia. The decline of the Russian economy and the difficulty of finding well-paid work, combined with the burden of bank loans, mortgages and dependents, have led more and more women to join the sex industry. Violence at the hands of both clients and police officers is a constant them, and the law mandates that all women convicted of sex work must be included in a database that can be accessed by many major employers. This can be used as a threat by officers to blackmail women and also makes it very difficult for women to leave the sex industry once their name is recorded.

I spent a year serving as a volunteer for the Silver Rose project, which focuses on AIDS prevention among female sex workers. I had a chance to visit brothels and talk to the women who worked there. I was astonished by the matter-of-fact, everyday way that they spoke about the trials they faced on a daily basis - physical and sexual violence, police blackmail, criminal raids by gangsters with knives and guns and their complete lack of legal protection and rights. What is going on here? How can it be that the woman’s body, considered the pinnacle of creation, an object worthy of admiration and even worship, is being sold, exploited and subjected to violence on a daily basis and with complete impunity?