Saturday, 26 September

The statement about the unattractiveness of Ukraine for foreigners because of corruption, crime, underdeveloped infrastructure is reasonable when it comes to investors and entrepreneurs. But for the seekers of amorous entertainment, pretending to be tourists, our country is very attractive. The sex industry is rapidly marching through its territories. The issue of legalizing prostitution and institutions of pleasure divides society into two rival camps.

Why foreigners, paying for intimate services, are so fond of Ukraine? The reason is: sex tourism is much cheaper here than in other countries, visa and logistical obstacles are insignificant. Powerful advertising points to the exceptional beauty and kind of easy accessibility of Ukrainian women.

“There are a lot of websites of dating agencies, massage parlors, men’s clubs, which are heavily advertised on the Internet,” said Yuliya Makarova, the coordinator of the projects of the League for the Protection of Women’s Rights “Harmony of Equals”. “Actually distributed videos with recommendations, how to “pick up” the Ukrainian girl. All these Internet resources offer girls to one’s own choice as a product in the storefront. There are whole “packages” of services and promotions, for example, the more hours and people – the bigger is discount, the weekend sex tours, where men can choose girls to taste for the weekend. Moreover, agencies take over the whole organization, tickets and hotels to develop leisure planning, etc.”.

Advertising is at the airports, hotels, metro. Illegal business is established primarily in large cities: Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Lviv. There are charters, short sightseeing tours, other nice little things for foreigners. As a rule, all foreign entertainment costs $ 400. The majority of the customers are from Turkey. But, is it really a mass phenomenon, because the sphere of illegal and official statistics is missing?

“Indeed, there is no official statistics, it is possible to follow the tendency already at least for the advertisement of foreign countries low-costs to Ukraine,” agreed Yuliya Makarova. “Yes, in Britain, the launch of Ryanair flights was advertised with the words about beautiful women and accessibility. Azerbaijani low-cost Buta Airways made a video with Ukrainian girls, who meet the company’s customers”.

“The statistics are inaccurate, but it’s not only in Ukraine, where this sphere is illegal,” Olena Zaitseva, a lawyer and researcher in gender issues, confirmed Opinion. “Statistics are a problem in Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution, unfortunately, is legalized. That is, it is not a problem related to regulation, it is a problem of the phenomenon itself. No one will say the exact figures, but almost everyone is aware of the increase in the influx of tourists, who want to buy the bodies of young Ukrainian women”.

Sex tourism = human trafficking

And what does the legislation say? It is too loyal to this sphere of “business”, and in relation to bringing the foreign clients to the responsibility, it is generally powerless.

“Ukraine has administrative liability in the form of a fine for engaging in prostitution and criminal responsibility for the maintenance of brothels, pimping, involvement in prostitution,” Iryna Suslova, chairman of the Subcommittee on Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Protection of Human Rights and National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, told Opinion. “Regarding persons, including foreigners, who use “services” of prostituted women or men, our legislation does not establish liability”.

Sex tourism is inseparably linked to human trafficking. Official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs testify up to 346 cases of trade last year. According to the agency of the International Organization for Migration, since 1991, more than 110,000 Ukrainians have suffered from this shameful phenomenon. Ukrainian girls “work” not only at home but also in the brothels of Russia, Turkey, Germany and other countries.

“The legalization of prostitution, pimping or brothels is a direct way to increasing human trafficking, including children, the degradation of society, an increase in the level of violence, and a deepening of gender inequality,” Olena Zaitseva is convinced. “Support for legalization/decriminalization can only be with material interest, low moral development or ignorance.

Everyone guesses that this huge industry (the third place after the arms and drugs trade) may have lobbyists and major beneficiaries in the higher power institutions, but no one will directly say about it. Someone has money, and Ukrainian women the status of a living commodity, which they buy and sell as a thing. Additionally, the higher risk of violence, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as the victims of torture, significantly higher death rates, suicide and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are added dramatically. Our girls “feed” the wallets of criminals in power with their bodies, they themselves remain on the verge of poverty. How can you propose to push them further into this abyss?”

The problem is topical both for children of both sexes, especially adolescents. According to police, in 2017, 4,5 thousand minors suffered from sexual violence, exploitation and harassment. But the official information is approximate and does not give a clear image of the situation.

“Mostly, sexual services are provided by teenagers aged 15-17, they are not considered as children by everyone,” Yuliya Makarova explained. “According to the Ukrainian Institute of Social Research n.a. A. Yaremenko, every 6-7th prostitute in Ukraine is underage. A major role in the trade and sexual exploitation of children is played by the current state of the country – war; the image of the state, in which there are attractive and fast women; there is no punishment for buyers of “living goods”; cheap prices for tourists; poverty of the population, which causes the involvement of children in prostitution and pornography; child neglect; lack of adequate social protection, etc.”.

Delicate bill

The view that Ukraine is becoming one of the world centers of sex tourism is shared not only by those, who are against the legalization of prostitution, but also by those, who try to direct this, delicate for many Ukrainians, sphere into the legislative channel. “The draft law on the regulation of prostitution and the activities of sex institutions” (No. 3139) dated September 18, 2015. Initiated by Andrii Nemyrovsky, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Prevention and Counteracting Corruption in the Environmental sphere and Environmental Protection of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Prevention and Combating Corruption. Then, in the fall of 2015, the bill was withdrawn. This happened, according to Iryna Suslova, through significant resonance and public pressure. Like, the idea of legalizing prostitution does not find support in the Parliament.

“Ukraine has not yet become the center of sex tourism, thank God, but everything is coming to this,” Mr. Nemyrovsky assured Opinion. “The bill was withdrawn, but it reached the aim – raised the problem in the public. What will it give to the country? The epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases will decrease. People, who are engaged in prostitution, will pay taxes because all the funds from this activity fall into the pockets of law enforcement or pimps. The guilty will answer before the law”.

In the opinion of the people’s deputy, it is legally possible to correct the problem so that there would be fewer murders, rape and other crimes. Everything should be according to the examples of civilized countries. As for the moral aspect, then something should be prohibited. Article 6 of the Law “On the Activities of Institutions” refers specifically to the prohibition on visiting sex establishments for persons under the age of 18 (liability to the owner), the prevention of placement of institutions in buildings of state authorities, healthcare, culture, religious buildings, state scientific institutions, kindergartens, schools, high schools, residential houses.

“If the population agrees, then I will continue this activity, if people are “against”, then it makes no sense to submit a bill,” Andrii Nemyrovsky said. “But we must pay attention to this topic. During the broadcasting, about 60-70% of the audience voted for the legalization of prostitution. We need to order sociology, there must be government programs, researches”.

Like any other job?

The bill defines the terms. In particular, who is a prostitute? This is an individual entrepreneur, who provides services of an intimate nature, performs sexual intercourse with another person on a fee basis. What is prostitution? This is a kind of entrepreneurial activity, the purpose of which is to provide services of an intimate nature, again, for money. A sex institution – “a legal entity where prostitutes provide services of an intimate nature, perform sexual intercourses with other persons on a fee basis”.

The document provides a medical examination for prostitutes, social protection of female sex workers, trade unions, and public organizations. Unfortunately, labor market experts did not want to comment on their viewpoint of the situation to Opinion. Economic expert Lyubomyr Shavalyuk agreed to share his thoughts on the problem:

“The services that determine the policy in this direction would recommend taking into account the economic, moral and social aspects. To conduct a public opinion poll on how people relate to this because democracy is the right of the majority. There is a certain tendency to substitute causes and consequences. If we take away this business from law enforcement officers, they will find what “to cover”. The only thing is that we have to respect the views of the society”.

“The argument that the state budget can be filled by legalizing the prostitution is populist,” Iryna Suslova believes. “This is an attempt to substitute a real economic development, based on science, culture and business with human bodies trade. No one thinks about the costs from the state budget due to the consequences of the legalization (an increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS, rising of crimes, human trafficking). This will lead to additional costs for the law enforcement system, psychological rehabilitation, medical support. The experience of Germany testifies: prostitutes in legal brothels also suffer from violence, the level of child prostitution and sexual slavery is growing. That is, legalization does not improve the level of welfare of society as a whole”.

The fact that the body trade is actually a human trafficking is recognized by psychologist Zoya Garkavenko.

“Personally, I am against such legislatively fixed or regulated norms, only because it contradicts our mental cultural code,” Zoya told  Opinion. “As a psychologist, I believe that such legalization will actually cause an even lower drop, depreciation of oneself as human beings and the reduction of everything to business, physiology. It’s low. It seems to me that people, who try to carry out such initiatives at the legislative level, just did not learn history well”.

The Swedish model to help

In addition to economic advantages, supporters of the legalization of prostitution refer to Western experience, liberal values. However, the opponents of the legalization of prostitutes and sex establishments are armed with the experience of Europeans. One way to solve the problem is called the Swedish model, which fights not with supply, but with demand – it’s about fining the customers.

“The Swedish legal model is the only successful example not only of reducing prostitution and trafficking, but also of violence, an effective tool for helping victims of prostitution, and, most importantly, changing attitudes towards this phenomenon in society,” Olena Zaitseva said. “The concept is based on the fact that it is necessary to stop condemning and punishing those, who are trafficked (about 90% of people have pimps) and finally focus on the source of the problem – those, who create and maintain demand – human buyers. Thus, punishment (quite low) for users of women in prostitution was established, and information about such fines became public. And it worked. The men finally realized that they were criminals, and not the women they used, and this became a significant deterrent”.

The introduction of the Swedish model was approved and recommended in 2014 at the level of the European Parliament. In addition to Sweden itself, the model operates in Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, France, Canada. A few more countries are on the way to its application. According to Olena Zaitseva, the pimps business resists, and, having enough resources, launches false promises in the media. The Swedish model is aimed primarily at long-term systemic changes, social development, the protection of human rights. It is suitable for Ukraine.

People’s deputy Iryna Suslova hopes that in the autumn the people’s deputies will begin a discussion in the Parliament. But her colleague Andrii Nemyrovsky does not believe that the problem will soon be moved out: “I think that the bill will not be submitted for this parliamentary convocation, because there is a pre-election campaign around the corner, and no one will want to vote for it, although it is necessary. Everyone is afraid of own reputation”.

“Pros and cons”

Opinion asked famous Ukrainians: “Do we need to legalize sex institutions, prostitution in our country?”

Diana Klochko, art critic:

“Why am I for legalization? Because women will be able to defend themselves. From those, who secretly use their services, but publicly condemn them. And from those, who use not the services, but the opportunity to “practice in violence”. And from those, who do not think about health risks, deliberately infecting women. Legalization is the way to understanding the problems, not hiding them”.


Oleksandr Sergienko, director of “Institute of the City”:

“According to the law, prostitution is not prosecuted, because, this is my opinion, it cannot be separated from extramarital sex, and that’s right. Pimping and pandering are prosecuted, with which I agree: society cannot turn a blind eye, moreover, legitimize public houses and prostitution. There are thefts, robbery, other crimes, inherent in human nature, but the society does not legalize them! Why should earnings by prostitution be legalized?”


Lesya Mudrak, poet, public figure:

“Prostitution is considered to be one of the oldest professions (yes, namely, “profession”): “the priestesses of love”, “biblical harlots”, “hetaerae” in different time planes occupied their niche. “Houses of pleasure” are often described in the artworks… Legalization makes sense. But the problem is that in Ukraine any issues, related to eroticism, porn, etc., are perceived by the society as immoral, shameful, taboo. And they have an exceptionally negative connotation. Our state is not quite ready (legislatively) to regulate these processes properly. But it would be nice to follow the example of the Germans or the Dutch”.


Oleg Kotsarev, poet:

“I never thought about the fate of the Ukrainian sex industry. And now I think: probably, in order to at least slightly reduce the criminalization of this sphere of society, at least to protect the participants of “processes” from various forms of violence, we must move towards certain forms of legalization. Bans and closure of eyes will not solve the problems”.


Text by Viktor Tsvilikhovsky


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