Ukrainian police – you done made me proud.

Not really, no.

Ukraine’s sex-workers are shamed already; shamed, and attacked, and demonized by the very same society that profits greatly from them. Many of them are no more than slaves. Others just aren’t bloody interested in working in McDonald’s or whatever, and they have the right not to be. Very few have access to adequate healthcare, just like many of Ukraine’s citizens in general.

Sex-workers are some of Ukraine’s most marginalized citizens, and the efforts to marginalize them further are pathetic. At best, they hint at the fact that the police lacks the resources to go after real criminals – extortionists, child molesters, abusive spouses – or else simply does not feel that their crimes really warrant as much of a fuss.

Instead of going after violent pimps and shady brothel-owners, instead of insisting to their superiors that prostitution needs to be at the very least decriminalized (which, if you ask most cops, it does), someone in the Ukraine police force has decided that the officers are better off trying to turn these women’s families against them.


What’s next? A mandatory scarlet “A”? Public flogging?

14 thoughts on “DISGUSTING

  1. After reading this post, I read the linked article together with its single comment, and also another article on http://www.whatson-kiev.com on prostitution in Kiev.

    I’d like to ask a question.

    In your third-to-last paragraph, where you suggest that “most cops” think prostitution ought to be decriminalized, does “most cops” include Ukrainian cops, including cops in Kiev? It was my understanding that cops in UK largely agreed that prostitution ought to be decriminalized, but I have never read that about cops outside UK. The article on http://www.whatson-kiev.com which discusses prostitution in Kiev and also Femen’s demonstration against prostitution, includes an interview with a private security guard who suggested that, since decriminalization in Ukraine was expected to reduce prices for sex work, the private sector (pimps, sex workers, etc.) quietly opposes decriminalization. Since the Kiev police and municipal government are understood to profit from bribes from high-end prostitution rings and presumably from individual sex workers, my guess would be that the Kiev police probably would prefer that sex work remain criminalized at least as an administrative crime, as it is now, subject to a fine (as I understand it). Otherwise the Kiev police and municipal government would lose their leverage in collecting bribes from the local sex industry.

    Also, I speculate (I obviously don’t know) that Kiev police might have resorted to informing prostitutes’ families and using family pressure as leverage against prostitutes, because that might at least slightly relieve the Kiev police of the political pressure to actually arrest and prosecute prostitutes and actively reduce the number of prostitutes on the street. The latter, if successful, might please the Ukrainian public and the central government but might also reduce opportunities for the Kiev police to collect bribes from sex workers. Whereas shifting the burden to prostitutes’ families allows prostitutes the option of continuing to sell sex by moving out if their families stigmatized them, but remaining free from official prosecution. Prostitutes who kept their trade secret from their families but whose income from sex work went far in supporting their families, might choose the latter option if that was the best way to keep their families sheltered and fed. And the police, on their part, would still have opportunities to collect bribes.

    I write this because the effort to use families against prostitutes, while it’s burdensome for both families and prostitutes, sounds as though it is actually meant to preserve the appearance of trying to get control of prostitution (to mollify public and central government), without actually reducing opportunities to collect bribes. The linked article says that in Kiev, the number of reported streetwalkers has been reduced as a result of this effort, but I’ll bet that’s only temporary.

    I also wonder if both Femen’s demonstration and the Ukrainian public’s disgust with sex workers are partly in anticipation of the Euro 2012 finals which are being co-hosted by Ukraine. Ukraine is apparently dismissed by Western media as one of Europe’s brothels, and my understanding is that the Ukrainian public and central government want to improve Ukraine’s image in the West in the lead-up to Euro 2012 and a possible bid to host the 2018 Olympics.

    If you have any thoughts on the above issues, it would be interesting to read them.

  2. Slaves Natalia, as you say.

    I doubt there are many children growing up in Ukraine, when asked about the future who will say “When I grow up, I want to be a prostitute on Kyiv’s streets”.

    In the end, it’s about just getting by given little other opportunity, or in other words, responding to being economically disenfranchised and rendered into servitude, to be consumed by those with greater wealth.

    In some ways this is equivalent to taking all the food away. When a population is forced into self-consumption the ethical will cry out “Look they are cannibals”.

    That may suit those who depend on graft to subsidise meagre incomes, and so on to the top of the pyramid.

    Several years ago, my colleague and I wanted to do something seeing Ukraine hamstrung by greed and corruption because we could see the destruction, not only threatening Ukraine but the rest of Europe. The aim was to get help, in the form of development aid investment such that young Ukrainians, many former orphans, living on the streets, should first all have homes and then the opportunity to develop a career within a legitimate economy.

    The request in the form of a paper, sent to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee was delivered in October 2006 and here, a relevant extract:

    “We see a staggering array of social problems arising directly from poverty, including but not limited to tens of thousands of children in orphanages or other state care; crime; disrespect for civil government because government cannot be felt or seen as civil for anyone left to suffer in poverty; young people prostituting themselves on the street; drug abuse to alleviate the aches and pains of the suffering that arises from poverty and misery; HIV/AIDS spreading like a plague amidst prostitution, unprotected sex, and drug abuse; more children being born into this mix and ending up in state care at further cost to the state; criminals coming from poverty backgrounds, ending up as bandits, returning to communities after prison, with few options except further criminal activity. These are all part and parcel of the vicious negative cycle of poverty, and this threatens to destroy Ukraine, if Ukraine is defined in terms of people rather than mere geographic boundaries. Overall, population is steadily declining; families have not sufficient confidence in tomorrow to reproduce more than 1.2 children on average per couple. ”

    Development paper”

    There has been response, some from Ukraine’s government, to these recommendations. From the US, though perhaps not managed in the way we hoped, the creation of the East Europe Foundation. And naturally, as you can image, there are those who would rather preserve the status quo and pretend that it hadn’t been said, or worse that it comes itself with criminal intent.


  3. I think most people realize that decrim is the best option, yes. But as you mention, some other changes must then take place.

    Considering the political deadlock in the country, I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Natalia,

    There’s a long story behind this which starts with a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of children in state care and the article “Death Camps for Children”. This is followed after 2 years by Albert Pavlov of “Happy Child” speaking out when a boy starves for want of medical attention.

    The chronology of these events is related here on a widely read forum.

    For-UA discussion

    Response from Ukraine’s side was to agree for 400+ rehab centres to be built, doubling of adoption allowance and now, the main point of the paper, homes for all children will be piloted by the foundation of a BYUT member and his Feldman Foundation, in Kharkiv oblast where we are based in Ukraine.


  5. I’m glad you’ve been able to make headway, Jeff.

    I should be in Ukraine in December – in Kiev. I don’t know if you’re going to be in the capital at all then, but if you are, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee or a beer or something.

  6. It would be nice, but I haven’t renewed my passport, so I’m bound to England but Terry who did all this stuff from Kharkiv might drink one for me!


  7. Yes, great idea by the Ukrainian militia. Getting thrown out on the streets by their families is a really good method of persuading women to leave sex work.

    what did you think of the article that’s posted afterwards as a comment ? (Ukraine is now the Sex Capital of Europe! Prostitution, Sex Tourism, Corruption at the Highest Levels, and the Internet in Kiev. By Richard Buckley)

    It’s by a self-professed ‘professional writer’ who thought it relevant to tell us that the girls concerned were
    ‘..gorgeous. About 170 cm tall, with blonde hair, grey eyes and carried herself like a model.’, or …’“V” placed [the money] in her bra which didn’t have much room in it anyway.’ Or ‘she was “really hot”, about 172 cm and maybe 50 kilos with a great body draped with see through top and short miniskirt (this is pretty average dress of any girl in Kiev and not indicative of prostitutes).’

    the attitude of the Ukrainian militia is stupid and disgusting but I suppose you could argue that this new campaign is an attempt – however misguided – to relate to the women as human beings with families and not just as sex objects (feel free to refute) – unlike this western male ‘professional writer’…

  8. I didn’t even read the article in the comments section initially – but now that I have, I agree that the descriptions are pretty gross… ugh.

    Lily, can I e-mail you, btw?

  9. In the Netherlands we tried legalizing prostitution but it didn’t work to improve the situation of prostitutes and the exploitation of them by criminals and pimps.
    Sad to say that legalizing the trade didn’t help one bit.
    it actually helped increase the criminal exploitation of woman.
    You can only have a legalized trade if criminal gangs and groups do not exploit the woman working in this trade.
    And they can work for themselves and earn there own money without being intimidated to hand over there earnings to pimps and ruthless gangsters.

  10. to that last comment, i would think that decriminalization and government regulatory involvement (as well as the obvious health department involvements), would take away quite a few of the criminal aspects. Though in truth and practice, as a Dutchman, I know that though prostitution (to a degree contrary to popular belief) in the Netherlands is “regulated” (not decriminalized), there are still criminal elements within the country, for those individuals who work within the sex industry, without permits to do so.

    there is no way at all in my opinion to ever remove the criminal elements of society. It isn’t in human nature to choose the path of “good” over “evil” (with each individual having their own interpretations and understanding of each).

    So, as this is a problem which is global, and not limited to certain regions of certain countries and so forth, it should be handled from a global perspective rather than a regional perspective… in this humble man’s opinion.

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