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Two weeks in Budapest

BY TANJA ON AUGUSTUS 4, 2014

Translated for Power in Purity  by www.limwierde.itiny.nl We provide translation, editing, language training and teaching. Please, visit our website.

“For a two-week-long period I will have something very different on my mind than prostitution and human trafficking”, I thought before leaving for Budapest, together with a bunch of young people. We went for a working holiday. A neglected building had to be done up, before it would be taken into use for a last phase of coaching former homeless who are working on their re-socialising programme, to be started a month later. Be up and doing stucco and painting. Being practical and getting on with it, without demanding too much of our brain cells.

This quickly turned out a naïve thought. Both the building and our accommodation at Oltahom (see www.oltahom.hu) are situated in district 8: one of Budapest’s poorest neighbourhoods. On our daily route, we walked along many homeless, among which the majority is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. As soon as it got dark, pretty, scantily dressed girls turned up from everywhere, on their way to their corner of the street where they were to work as a prostitute that night. It was only a matter of time before one of ‘our’ lads was being addressed by a girl. First, the question was if he wanted to buy some marihuana from her, and after he refused, the second question was if he wanted to have sex with her. For 200 huf, which after conversion is as little as 65 eurocents (or 82 dollar cents, or 51 pence).

Automatically, my thoughts went to the Hungarian girls in the Amsterdam Red Lights District (Wallen). In the vernacular, Molensteeg (Mill Alley) is called Nyiregyhaza Street, because almost every girl working there is from the town of Nyiregyhaza. In another corner of the Wallen, a considerable number of girls are from Budapest.

At seeing those young girls in the Budapest streets, I realised how huge chances are that, after turning eighteen, they will start working in the prostitution sector in Amsterdam or other cities in Western Europe. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. The girls know precisely in which cafes they have to be in order to meet fixers who organise their paperwork and tickets, so they can go for a new challenge, expecting to earn buckets of money, and so leaving the poverty behind them.

Girls, earning only a few euros (or even less) per client in their country of origin, expect a good return in Amsterdam. An unwritten norm of 40-50 euros ($50-63 or £31-39) per client is current. Often, the calculation doesn’t include the costs that are charged upon her, such as the flat rent (which frequently is exorbitantly high, because the girls have no idea of what is common in The Netherlands; the crib rent (about a hundred euros per ‘shift’ – that is $126, or £78). Besides, there is the remuneration for the trafficker to help her find work in Amsterdam. In short, she may earn more, but also has more costs and/or debts. She hasn’t got the faintest idea about this, simply because human traffickers only pass on this information once the girl has been settled in the prostitution business. And then, in Amsterdam, she discovers that her plan to make a life in Hungary, with the money earned in The Netherlands, can’t be realised. It is in such a situation that we meet those women on the Wallen. Disillusioned, on the surface indifferent, sometimes hopeless, sometimes angry.

We hear people say: “It was her own choice to go to Amsterdam to do this”. I wonder: “What alternative was available to her? What options did she have for development beyond prostitution? To make a living for herself, what else could she do? Which examples did she have?”

“Ah, well… she already did the job in her home country,” is a way of reasoning I recently heard. As if that would guarantee a positively free choice. There are many people with interests in taking women from Hungary to The Netherlands to work in the prostitution sector. Either for their comfort or for their money. This (far too big) group of people is always trying to play down the situation of these women and tries to convince others by argument of the free will and even the pleasure with which the women work. They’ll have to, because if they acknowledge the difficult position and the aversion many women have, they’ll be the villains that keep the women in this situation. Much rather they live with the illusion that help the women with some earnings or a good working environment.

Now Budapest again. Because this is where the thoughts I put in this blog came to be. This is the city in which I saw the extreme poverty in which the girls live as they try to earn some money by offering their bodies. You can’t tell by their pretty faces that they live in poverty. Who only judges by what is seen superficially (a pretty young lady who hails with a smile), may think she likes what she is doing. Whoever thinks one step further, realises that prostitution always finds its cause in necessity. Questions that keep coming back to my mind are: “What kind of person are you when you take such a girl for your own pleasure? What kind of person are you when you want to earn money out of girls and women who are in such a vulnerable position?”

The last question, and this is my challenge to you to join this train of thought, is: “How can we make sure that we can save these Budapest girls the Amsterdam disillusion?”