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Prostitution in Bulgaria is neither fully criminalised nor decriminalised. Prostitutes live in an uneasy limbo, vulnerable to abuse. Nevena Borisova had the chance to meet some of Bulgaria's sex workers and hear their stories.
Magda and Natalia smoke cigarettes sitting languidly on bare mattresses. But Magda has decided to trust me and let me into her home. The lodgings — a mid-sized room with a hall — is located in a central area of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and can hardly be called cozy. In each one of the many pictures she is posing with a different man. Natalia and Magda knew each other through their families long before they became sex workers.
Magda, who has been selling her body for 15 years , tells me how surprised she was when one day she saw Natalia at a bus station. Natalia had come to prostitute herself there for the first time. In Bulgaria as in every country, sex work places range from apartments, to brothels venues with more than three sex workers , massage parlors, bars and clubs. For instance, once a client wanted her to defecate on his stomach.
Magda goes to a gynaecologist more often than most of her colleagues. She refuses to have sex without protection. However, she says that a lot of girls do have unprotected sex because it pays better. Rayna Dimitrova from the Health and Social Development Foundation recalls that Magda was among the few women who volunteered in the past. She advised her colleagues how to protect themselves from violence, how to insist on the use of protection. She has worked in more than five European countries so far, including France , Germany , and Switzerland.
Most of the places were brothels. The visitor is introduced to the girls and takes his pick. Bulgaria is an EU-member state, so there is no need to obtain special documents. A small group of people are standing nearby- two feminine boys aged about 18 who gave me a suspicious look, and a girl of about They are in the same line of work. A little girl is very happy to see Magda and hugs her legs. This is the daughter of her female flatmate. A neighbor standing nearby is staring at the group that is chatting cheerfully.