Leyla Gülçüra and Pınar İlkkaracanb, ‘The “Natasha” experience: Migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in Turkey’, Women’s Studies International Forum, Volume 25, Issue 4, July–August 2002, Pages 411–421
Women have been migrating across the world in increasing numbers and the sex industry remains one option for work in host countries. While there is currently much controversy over whether sex work is “forced” versus “voluntary,” the underground nature of the sex industry, combined with prevalent restrictions on illegal/undocumented immigration in host countries, creates working and living conditions for women that facilitate health risks, violence, harassment, police bribery, detention, and arbitrary deportation.
In this paper, we focus on the case of migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in Turkey. Using a combination of sources including newspapers, participant observation, interviews with key informants and with migrant sex workers, we document the experiences and working conditions of women who travel periodically from their own countries to Istanbul to undertake sex work. We conclude that policy debates regarding sex work should focus not so much on whether women “choose” to enter this profession but should instead focus on the need to ameliorate migrant women’s living and working conditions by addressing restrictive and abusive immigration policies and by decriminalizing undocumented sex work.
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