|Directed by:||Nili Herman||Rating:||TV-MA|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||56 mins.|
|More Info:||Task Force on Human Trafficing||Category:||Israel|
Half a million women from the former USSR have fled to work as prostitutes in the West within the last decade. Many have ended up in Israel.
, where prostitution is legal.** With a non-judgmental and sympathetic approach, Women For Sale steps into the minds of these women to explore their intimate hopes and concerns, giving an inside view to the bleakness of life as a prostitute.
“Yes, I am a prostitute, and I don’t care what people say about me,” one woman explains. “The only thing I want is a house for me and my daughter and to be able to give my daughter everything she needs.”
Faced with extreme poverty in their native countries and convinced that they have no alternatives, the women profiled all offer their services for around seventeen dollars an hour. They take pride in being able to support themselves and their families. Almost boasting, one woman says, “Not every girl, or woman, is prepared for this kind of work.” With a compassionate tone, Women For Sale tries to find out what makes these women “prepared” and why governments and law enforcement officers have been so ineffective in protecting their well-being.
Again and again the prostitutes offer the same explanation for why they’ve chosen this line of work over other jobs — they can earn more money. In a factory, a woman earns four dollars an hour, while brothel owners and pimps promise lavish incomes. To women who come from poverty, the promise of wealth is hard to turn down.
But is prostitution really that profitable? The film raises doubts. One prostitute says she once had to work for seven months without pay before she ran away from her pimp. And just weeks before the filming, she was beaten up by thugs who claimed to be police officers. The women in the film are certainly not raking in the dough, and the viewer can’t help but wonder if their sacrifices are worth the few extra dollars they send home to their families back in the former Soviet Union.
These women might not be able to articulate it, or perhaps they refuse to see it, but it’s clear that it’s not just the extra dollars that leads them to prostitute themselves. For one thing, prostitution offers independence. For a girl who grew up without a father and dependent on an alcoholic mother, it is liberating to be self-employed. With a bright blue scrunchy on the top of her head and a naive smile, one woman explains how much she hates working fixed hours. When she works on the beach she’s free to come and go as she pleases, and no one is there to tell her what to do.
Being flirtatious is also a thrill of the job. One woman says that when she first started working and a car would stop for her, she would “come up to it almost at a run,” unable to contain her excitement. She enjoyed spending hours in front of the mirror making herself pretty and would address her customers with terms of endearment.
But for the more seasoned prostitutes, these “perks” of the job have long since passed. The woman who enjoyed playing at romance has since cut her long hair short and stopped flirting. In a smoky apartment, with a cigarette between her fingers, she says she’s become bitter, irritable, and argumentative, making it even harder to earn money.
For other women, the nightmarish realities of prostitution were immediate. Women For Sale follows police officers as they raid a brothel, where one woman explains that, when she arrived in Israel, she was imprisoned in the windowless basement of a brothel for two months and forced to service up to fifteen men a day. Yet many of these women see no way out of the industry, no other viable options to support themselves and their families.
Women For Sale also delves into the strange role that religion plays in these women’s lives. Two of them say that when they started working in a brothel they were told to pray at the beginning and at the end of the day so that God would forgive them for what they were doing. Prayer was their pimp’s way of keeping them submissive.
But for other women, religion is a method of escape from a life they no longer want to lead. The camera follows one woman as she kneels piously and whispers, “God I ask you to help me. I want to leave this work.”
The moment drives home one of the film’s underlying messages. Though the reality of the situation may be different, most of the women featured believe that they are stuck in a life of prostitution. Only God can get them out.
**Despite the film’s statement to the contrary, prostitution is not legal in Israel. The mistake may be based on a misinterpretation of certain technicalities in the law.