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It is important to describe and understand the underlying patterns and dynamics that govern sex work in societies undergoing rapid political and social changes, its heterogeneity across populations, and its evolution through time in order to inform future research, sound policy formation, and programme delivery. To describe the socioeconomic and cultural determinants, organisational structure, distinct categories, and spatial patterning of sex work in Tallinn, Estonia, and identify recent temporal changes in sex work patterns.
These sites vary in terms of their public health importance and social organisation. There are full time, part time, and intermittent male and female sex workers. Among others, the taxi driver, madam and the bartender are central roles in the organisation of sex work in Tallinn. Cell phone and internet technology enable sex work to be highly dispersed and spatially mobile. Sex work is a dangerous profession and sex workers are exposed to serious risks.
Tallinn, Estonia, is a particularly interesting city for the study of sex work because of its historical and demographic characteristics. The transition from Soviet occupation to autonomy brought about major societal upheaval economically and socially.
Many of the unemployed were ethnic Russians who were originally imported from the Soviet Union to control the military, industry, and governance in Estonia. As ethnic Estonians emerged into social, economic, and political prominence with independence, ethnic Russians found themselves without the status and privilege they formerly enjoyed. Estonia is a small country with a population of 1.
The small population size has implications for the practice of sex work since, unlike more populated cities, both sex workers and clients express concern about being recognised. Consequently, observable street sex work is limited in Tallinn.