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A vicious cycle of destitution locks large numbers of Hungarian women into sex work. Moving to western Europe to avoid prosecution, their vulnerability and isolation only increases. Hungary is a major player in the European sex trade, not only as a host country for sex tourism and domestic punters, but also as a major provider of the labour force that works in western European countries.
The scarcer the economic opportunities in a region, the more likely locals are to enter the trade and end up either providing or managing sexual services far from home. There are other examples throughout the continent where Hungarian citizens — the vast majority women — work in extraordinary numbers, and whose work and travel are managed, and their income skimmed, by other Hungarians.
Sometimes this is by agreement, at other times by force or manipulation, or simply because of a lack of alternatives. NGOs and social services in Berlin, Zurich and other major cities employ social workers from Hungary and other eastern European countries in order to allow them to communicate with their target audience: often isolated, mistrustful people, who are scared or do not even know how to get health checks or legal aid, and fear to ask for help.
Source: Flickr. The most frequent destinations for Hungarian sex workers are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK and of course, the Netherlands — countries that have legalized prostitution itself, while circumscribing it in various way. Others are luckier and can negotiate the terms on which they work.
Yet many do not speak the local language and have no social network in their countries of destination, and so are entirely dependent on their traffickers and procurers. Eastern women have long been seen, at least in the popular imagination, as having a corrupting influence on western morals and welfare — at least, since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the international mobility of easterners became an everyday reality.