Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Sun, Sex and Gypsy Hookers

Here we are in May in a supposed drought, the weather is cold, dull and depressing and we are counting down the months, weeks and days until that holiday abroad. We booked it twelve months ago and have since spent countless hours on Google, looking for reviews of the resort we paid so much to visit. Mr and Mrs Smith have just got back after a wonderful week in the sun. The alcohol was cheap, the food was great but ‘watch out for those gypsy beggars’.  Dave and co have had an insane fortnight partying hard. The best clubs in the world, sun, sea, sand and a lot of shagging but guys, ‘beware of the gypsy hookers’.  

Take, for instance, the Sunny Beach resort in Bulgaria. A quick Google search provided me with the following reviews:

…those gipsies are to be found on the central alley of Sunny Beach…they run to you offering you sex, and by the time you realize it, your wallet is gone”

 The cheapest prostitutes are on the road to Sunny beach (mostly young gypsies girls)

Indeed, 70 per cent of Bulgaria’s prostitutes are reportedly Roma, which is hardly surprising giving that 84 per cent of Bulgaria’s Roma population live in poverty.  Yet to me, a Romany boy brought up in the UK, I do find it shocking.  You would be hard pressed to find a British Romany prostitute, as sex before marriage and extramarital sex are so deeply frowned upon, however while Britain’s Romany population are the victims of social exclusion, their situation in no way mirrors the distressing situation of the Roma across Europe. 

Driving through Bulgaria last Christmas, it saddened me to see Roma girls lining the side of the motorway waiting for clients. To me it is a sad reflection of the deep and historic hatred for the Romani people, which has ultimately triggered the extreme poverty and exclusion which leads to prostitution. Yet, when we look at reviews for ‘Sunny Beach’, or indeed any other resort across Europe, does anyone stop to think why these ‘gypsy hookers’ are ‘harassing’ tourists?  

The majority of these girls will have been forced into prostitution. In Bulgaria, they are more than likely under the control of criminal gangs composed largely of ethnic Bulgarians, rather than Roma men. Not only are Roma girls subjected to forced prostitution within Bulgaria itself, but are often trafficked to countries such as the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands. Indeed, the trafficking of Roma woman is an international problem, with girls being lured from deprived areas with the promise of employment or marriage abroad, only to be forced into prostitution upon their arrival. 

The sexual exploitation of Roma woman goes greatly unreported, and the plight of these young women appears to go unnoticed, but is this because these women are Roma or because they are prostitutes? I argue that these women suffer not only from the stigma of being prostitutes, but of being Roma as well. Instead of being outraged at those who traffic them, people show disgust at the ‘dirty gypsies’ - an ethnic group who are being persecuted and abused. If we take a look at the video ‘Bulgarian gipsy hookers hunting down victims’, there are very little if any comments about the trafficking of Roma woman, but many showing their repulsion: 

i think they are even worser then black ppl. Atleast black ppl do something for the world. What did a gipsy EVER did for the world”

“You can smell their filthy disgusting cunts just walking by.. I wouldnt fuck them if you paid me.”

“Those fuckin foreigners should go to live to Stolipinovo or gypsis ghettos. FUCK GYPSIES!!FUCK "HUMAN RIGHTS" ORGANISATIONS!!”

Still, despite the lack of compassion for these victims of sexual exploitation, there is something that goes even more unreported – the prostitution of Roma males.  In a study of Romanian and Bulgarian male prostitutes working in Germany, it was reported that Romani males were over represented. Indeed, the 2012 documentary ‘Die Jungs vom Bahnhof Zoo’, features three heterosexual Roma men working as prostitutes in Berlin, in order to provide for their families in Romania. What is more, there have been cases of underage Roma boys being forced into prostitution. 

Sadly, there has been very little research into the sexual exploitation of Roma men, thus what we do know is likely only to be the tip of the iceberg.  This reflects a worrying yet widespread tendency for society to overlook and disregard the sexual abuse of men.  When we talk about human trafficking, sexual exploitation and rape, it seems that attention is focused almost exclusively on women. Patriarchal culture has appeared to make us almost unwilling to see men as ‘victims’, and only as perpetrators. The consequences of such attitudes are hugely damaging, with the majority of sexual assaults against men going unreported. 

Out of 135 organisations for survivor s of sexual abuse and rape in the UK, just 7 provide services specifically for men.  Duncan Craig, founder and Service Director for Survivors Manchester, and a survivor himself, said:

“The sexual exploitation and abuse of boys and men is so often ignored, it’s like society doesn’t want to accept that it happens. When we have a government that focuses on the ‘Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) agenda, it negates the harm caused to boys and men which silences the issue even more”

 “Survivors Manchester is committed to breaking the silence of the sexual abuse and rape of boys and men. By providing a safe space, we work to help males be empowered to work through the legacy issues and begin making positive and healthy choices based on the present and not the past”

“Since we started in 2009, we have struggled to secure funding from local and central government. The sexual exploitation and rape of males is an issue that not many people want to be associated with, which makes fundraising increasingly difficult too. We’ve even been accused of trying to take money away from women’s services!”

The lack of support, for male survivors of sexual abuse and rape, in a so called equal and pioneering British society, brings very little promise for the Roma men enduring sexual exploitation across Europe. The portrayal of Romany men in the media has been somewhat unfavourable. We are portrayed as misogynists, fighters, criminals, con men, slave masters and pimps. While Romany woman have their gender on their side, Romany men have to contend with chauvinist stereotypes which do very little to highlight the plight of those who are trafficked and exploited.  

The exploitation of any group of society is unethical, yet it seems unjust that the Roma, who are already the most deprived ethnic minority in Europe, are being abused in such inconceivable ways. While there are organisations campaigning for the rights of exploited Roma woman and children, I fear the exploitation of Roma males, and indeed all males, will remain hidden and unchallenged. We are fortunate that, in the UK, there are services, such as Survivors Manchester, who are dedicating their time to helping men who have survived sexual abuse.  My only hope is that these services can be amplified, both nationally and internationally and that all survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation, whether male, female, Roma or non Roma, can have equal access, and equal chances of regaining control of their lives.


  1. Insightful and well researched as always. I have been to such resorts in Bulgaria myself, and was dismayed by the level of exploitation, and also at how the best reaction these women got was to be laughed at. I remember seeing on woman sex worker tending to her baby that was in a pram in an adjoining alley way. That was one of the worst things I ever saw.

    In terms of Roma boys, it's a big problem in Eastern, and Central Europe. A cursory glance at forums aimed at LGBT visitors to places like the Prague and Budapest, show numerous posts regarding Roma boys and men.

    So glad you've brought this up, needs to be heard.

  2. This is a well presented post. It's good to see people reporting on such matters as there are so many in our society in England still unaware.

  3. Very well-written piece Pip. I know this stuff *does* go on in the UK too: certainly in Govanhill, Glasgow where I live, but there have been efforts here to crack down on exploitation, particularly of Roma girls (originating from Slovakia and Romania). I have no idea if there is also even more hidden abuse of Roma boys, but it wouldn't surprise me; this is the land of sexual abuse in all-boys' children's homes going back decades, for instance. As a feminist, I applaud you highlighting sexual abuse of boys and men.

    What disgusts me is that people are so dismissive of Roma when they talk about this, but noone asks who is doing the "buying" of sexual "services".

    One time in Victoria Road in Govanhill I saw a very distressing sight, but it took me ages to process what I was seeing. Two women, who looked like they weren't Roma (they were very pale-skinned and the Roma around here are darker-skinned; I never heard them speak so I don't know if they were Scottish), were walking up and down a busy thoroughfare mid-afternoon with a Roma girl between them. At first glance it looked like maybe a mother and auntie going for a nice walk with a daughter. But the girl was clearly of a different ethnic group (not in itself necessarily bad, she could've been a friend, or adopted), and she was wearing these absurdly high heels she could barely walk in. I don't know her age because the Eastern European Roma here tend to be smaller than native Scots. But she could've been anything from 10 to (a very small, slender) 16 I guess. As I waited for my bus they paraded her up and down the same stretch several times. The women looked very hard-faced, the girl kind of blank-faced (as you might expect an a girl trapped in a desparate situation to be). They had her in a couple of arm-locks. After thinking it through for a couple of days (honestly it was such an unusual sight it did take me a while to work out what I was seeing) I did call the police and gave a full statement, including a detailed description of the women. I hope it helped. And I certainly stay very vigilant now because I would love nothing more than to call these abusers to account.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. You write with seriousness and fervour and with a maturity beyond your years. Well done for taking on issues often left by the wayside. You've got a bright future ahead of you and you're a credit to your self and family!

  4. It's as if with the majority cultural disavowal of racism directed against Afro-Caribbeans, Asians and Jews, the continuing legitimisation of active prejudice against Roma has absorbed all the leftover poison.

  5. First off let me say, I did NOT read the above post, although I am sure it was well written and insightful. What I am commenting for is simply your post to the UK channel 4 post but unfortunately I am lazy and refuse to find it among your blog post so you will have to deal with me replying here wether you like it not.

    Now onto my point mainly I want to stress a few things when I read your post I thought "hmm how refreshing someone with a brain AND a valid point". Secondly I mostly wanted to high five you.....then when I realized you were so young I wanted to double high five you. I also realized you have yet I'm sure to see the US version which makes me sad really. Mostly and sincerely because all the things you said were right about the UK and as bad as it is it no way compares to the US one. For the first time in my life I am humiliated I am what and who I am. If people do not realize it's fake there is something VERY wrong in the world. That being said I'm 99% sure there IS something very wrong in the world.

    Now as for the US show I would like to point that that they are NOT gypsies of any kind. Some even admit to being TURKS. Which only shows the caliber of the show and the people who wanted to participate.

    I had other comments to make but as I am lazy I am also in need of a nap so I forgot half of what I was going to say.

    On a side note beings you are so young I feel as if I should you know although my name is Phyllis not PIP I first dubbed myself PHYLLAPOTAMUS which means you basically stole my nickname which makes me want to copyright it but also give you kudos. That being said I should like to inform you that as I mentioned above I am lazy and in order to respond and make this comment I had to fill out a blog app on google it irritated me so you should feel special that I did so much to tell you how awesome your post was.

    You're welcome by the by.

    Sincerely yours,


  6. Thanks for writing such a sensitive and well-researched post, Pip. The sexual exploitation of Roma girls, women, boys and men is rarely highlighted, though it's clearly widespread.

    On a more writerly note, I'm impressed with your mixture of plain facts and personal experience.

  7. Really interesting and well researched Pip. I recognise no one chooses such a lifestyle, these people are clearly victims of exploiting scum. Including the little girl I saw at Sunny Beach robbing 2 old ladies of their purse while they were swimming, after chatting to them and making the appearance of being their granddaughter . She probably had no choice. I read about the attacks on Romanies before I went to Bulgaria. Saddening.Its horrific how people just haven't moved on. Humanity needs to grow up.

  8. When I was driving through Montana, Bulgaria, a couple of years ago there were lines of Roma children being "exhibited" along the main road to Vidin. The people sitting behind them looked like their parents, but they were definitely Roma. I don't think it undermines your case to suggest that parents may be forced to pimp their own children. I certainly didn't see ethnic Bulgarians dong any pimping, which doesn't mean they don't get financial benefit somewhere in the background.

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  10. "A cursory glance at forums aimed at LGBT visitors to places like the Prague and Budapest, show numerous posts regarding Roma boys and men."

    What??? Someone actually wants to sleep with them? Wow! Just shows how many desperate 40 year old virgins there are in the world I guess. I mean Roma guys (and girls for that matter) can be wonderful, good-natured, intelligent, insightful and perceptive people as well as academically gifted (like the young man writing this blog) but no offence to anyone they sure as heck are NOT handsome/attractive/hot as far as looks go. There are people who find personalities sexier than apperance but they aren't the types looking for one night stand/paid sex so I'm finding it hard to fathom who is actually using the services og the boys you talk about. They are either obese or anorexic with no teeth, super bushy eyebrows that render their eyes invisible, too much gold and overly hairy. So anyone who looks at someone of this description and thinks "hot stuff" is either very weak sighted, desperate or as ugly as the description above. LOL :-P :-)

  11. That is a good idea. The heroine could work at phone sex because she is out of funds and out of resources. It's innocent enough--not real sex. But then a guy calls--by mistake and, well, there's a story in there somewhere. A very interesting blog.
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