With speedy rise in number of sex workers in the country, Ukraine has already become a prime destination of tourists from around the world, who are looking for young and beautiful Ukrainian females. Prostitution in Ukraine is illegal but widespread and largely ignored by the government. In recent times, Ukraine has become a popular prostitution and sex trafficking destination. Ukraine is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked transnationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Ukraine’s dissolution from the Soviet Union, saw the nation attempt to transition from a planned economy to a market economy. The transition process inflicted economic hardship in the nation, with nearly 80 percent of the population forced into poverty in the decade that followed its independence. Unemployment in Ukraine was growing at an increasing rate, with female unemployment rising to 64 percent by 1997. The economic decline in Ukraine made the nation vulnerable and forced many to depend on prostitution and trafficking as a source of income. Sex tourism rose as the country attracted greater numbers of foreign tourists.
According to the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies in 2011 there were 50,000 women working as prostitutes with every sixth prostitute being a minor. The organization claimed the largest number of prostitutes were found (in 2011) in Kyiv (about 9,000 people), then in the Odessa area (about 6,000), about 3,000 could be found in Dnipropetrovsk and in Donetsk, in Kharkiv 2,500 and 2,000 were said to have worked in Crimea. Research by the State Institute for Family and Youth Issues indicates that, for many women, sex work has become the only adequate source of income: more than 50 percent of them support their children and parents. 10 percent of adolescents living on the streets (in 2011) were suspected to have provided sex to other men for food and clothing.
In regards to trafficking, Ukrainian citizens make up 80 percent of traffickers with 60 percent being women. Sexual trafficking victims tend to be women and girls between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six.
Another statistic said, the number of sex workers in Ukraine has crossed 300,000 by the end of 2020. It said, due to insufficient income, hundreds of the female members of Ukrainian military and law enforcement agencies also are working as part-time sex workers, who mostly are available in hotels and clubs.
Ukraine is now known to have a greater number of trafficking victims than any other Eastern European nation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1998, the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior estimated that 400,000 Ukrainian women were trafficked during the previous decade; other sources, such as non-governmental organizations, state the number was even higher. According to the International Organization for Migration over 500,000 Ukrainian women have been exploited with trafficking to the West since its independence in 1991 up to 1998.
Ukrainian women have been exported to countries across the world, such as Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Hungary, United Arab Emirates, Syria etc. According to multiple reports the Ukrainian sex-workers are the largest group of foreign women in Turkey involved into prostitution and the second largest group of foreign women involved into prostitution outside the US military bases in Republic of Korea.
Of trafficking victims, 80 percent were unemployed prior to leaving Ukraine. Traffickers use this economic vulnerability to recruit women into prostitution. Many victims were convinced to leave Ukraine with the promise of profit by traffickers. The traffickers say they will work as dancers or in-store clerks. Victims are usually exported with legal documents such as travel visas. Ukrainian police say 70 percent of trafficked women travel with genuine documents obtained from corrupt officials. The majority of women cross the border with these genuine documents as opposed to being smuggled. Once they arrive in their destination country, they are frequently trapped by pimps taking away their visas, or by owing the pimps money to be paid off with prostitution. If they succeed in paying off their debt, some become recruiters, going back to Ukraine and telling friends and family they made a significant amount of money by going abroad. Approximately 60 percent of traffickers are Ukrainian women. While an IOM survey in 2011 says that 92 percent of Ukrainians were aware of sexual trafficking, trafficking continued to increase since then. Ukrainians working irregularly abroad increased from 28 percent to 41 percent from 2011 to 2015.
The themes of prostitution and sex trafficking has been prominent in the Ukrainian media over the past few years. The UEFA Euro 2012 was heavily linked with prostitution and sex tourism in the country. There were efforts from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and other political parties in favor of the legalization of prostitution in the lead up to the major sporting event, claiming that it would improve the prostitutes’ working conditions, avoiding sexual transmitted diseases, and creating a new source of tax revenue.
Femen, the international movement of topless female activists, is an organization dedicated to feminism and sextremism. It was originated in Ukraine and was the subject of Australian documentary – “Ukraine Is Not a Brothel”. Their objective is to seek the extirpation of prostitution associated with exploitation of women and to create awareness against the act.
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