The role of ‘marriage agencies’ in the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women from the former soviet union

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Each year, tens of thousands of women leave the former Soviet Union by accepting risky offers of employment and marriage in the hope of finding a better life. Many of these women become victims of violence, sexual exploitation, and trafficking. ‘Marriage agencies’ play a role in recruiting women and connecting them with foreign men. Information on the numbers and locations of recruitment of women were collected from 500 Web based sites for ‘marriage agencies’ from 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. Additional research included interviews with representatives of NGOs in Russia, research interviews in Ukraine, media stories, and content analysis of web based sites. Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus had the highest number of women recruited (62,605, 31,837, and 12,683 respectively), followed by Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Uzbekistan (4,190, 3,037, 1,760, 1,139 respectively), with the lowest numbers from Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan (884, 626, 551, 204, 25, 23, 8, 7 respectively). There were large differences in the number of women recruited in different oblasts within each country. There is not uniform recruitment of women across the 15 countries or within the countries. Some of the variation may be explained by population size, but the operation of recruiters for ‘marriage agencies’ also must play a role. ‘Marriage agencies’ also serve as sex tour and pornographic model agencies for foreign men. Vulnerable populations of women are targeted for recruitment. © 2004, A B Academic Publishers. Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

International Review of Victimology