How they protest prostitution in Ukraine

Their message - "Ukraine is no whorehouse". Their medium - anything from throwing cakes at sexists, challenging male tourists in the street, and getting naked in order to disrupt public ceremonies. Meet Kiev's controversial anti-prostitution activists.

The cost of living in Kiev is not cheap - not much less than in many western European capitals. And yet the average income, according to government statistics, is 300 euros a month. Coupled with lax visa laws for travellers, the conditions have led to the country's sex tourism industry becoming what is thought to be the biggest in Europe. It's no secret; websites like the one that calls itself "Ukraine's number one escort agency" - describe girls by exactly what they'll do in the bedroom, along with a list of prices. "Our escort Ukraine girls are open for all kinds of sex", they boast. Prostitution is supposed to be illegal.

FEMEN, the group of activists in question, says that the government is doing nothing to stop the practice. Which is why they're taking such drastic measures to bring attention to it. But are they the right ones? Give your opinion.


FEMEN demonstrating in Kiev

“People wouldn’t pay attention to us if it weren’t for the way we dress”

Anna Hutsol founded and has been running FEMEN since 2008.

I set up FEMEN because I realised that there was a lack of women activists in our society; Ukraine is male-oriented and women take a passive role.

In comparison with neighbouring countries, we have the most favourable conditions for sex tourism: free visa entry (for EU and the USA), well developed infrastructure, cheap prices (flights, hotels etc). Plus there's a myth abroad that Ukrainian women are easy, sexy, and like foreigners. But it's also because the government doesn't want to deal with the issue - the sex industry goes unpunished by the law. The fine for getting paid for sex is around five euros. And for pimping, you face a jail sentence of three to eight years. But in practice the pimps don't go to jail because they bribe the police.

Officially there are 12,000 prostitutes in Ukraine, but there are many more in reality; they've just never been taken to the police and therefore go uncounted for. What's most frightening is that 70% of those recorded are under 18 years old.

Here at FEMEN we have developed our own unique way of civil self-expression based on creativity, courage, humour, efficiency and shock. People wouldn't pay attention to the serious problems we tackle if it weren't for the way we dress. We are not afraid to go topless or wear bikinis if it serves a purpose."

“Sometimes we fight over foreign clients”

Iryna (not her real name) is a sex worker from Kiev. She prefers to remain anonymous.

I've been working in the escort service for three years now. I started working in my first year at uni. It was not an escort service to be exact - it was originally a modelling agency. Then it changed owners and we were asked to provide additional services. Half of the girls left but I had nowhere to go. So I stayed. And I'm still here.

It costs around 70 euros per hour for a typical date. Sex is almost always included, at least with my agency. We can't turn anyone away now with the crisis.

Foreigners pay better. Plus you don't have to worry about losing your life. Sometimes we fight over foreign clients. Around 60% are from abroad. In the best cases they'll be German or French and in the worst, Arab or Turkish. Clients from Western Europe are the nicest. Clients from Poland and other former Soviet countries, they're similar to Ukrainians - are often bastards.

I don't know why they come here. They say Ukrainian girls are beautiful. I don't know whether we should close down the sex industry. But I do know that I haven't seen any happy prostitute." 

Dramatic action in Kiev

Boycotting Ukraine Independence Day celebrations August 24, 2009. 


One of the girls dresses as the Ukrainian symbol of freedom - the Ukrainian Marianne, August 24, 2009.


The girls patrol Kiev's main road, Khreshchatyk Street, challenging men about what they think of them. "Foreign tourists and visitors to our country! Many of your compatriots think of us as prostitutes. Thank you for thinking differently!" 


Group member Alexandra throws a cream cake at writer Oles Buzina, known for his book "Ladies, back to the harems", and for his open stance against the right for a woman to say no to sex. April 2009.


Anna with Helmut Geier (DJ Hell), FEMEN supporter from Germany, at a demonstration in Kiev's central square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, on May 23, 2009.


One of the performances at the May 23 demonstration.

All photos posted on FEMEN's MySpace page



I wonder why prostitution never changes. There isn't anywhere in the world where prostitution doesn't exist. So the more they protest against prostitution the more it will increase. And as a matter of fact it will become more relentless. Pimpers will have no whorehouse to go on and they will be unfortunatly to go on and do it on the streets for a couple of secs. for satisfaction. And if laws punish prostitutes and pimpers some will do prostitution in a rush without a contraceptiion (rubber) and it will follow up another problem with sexual transmitted dieases. I remember prostitution is an ancient job so find the solution and do not judge the prostitutes and pimpers.

sexisme toujours et encore

Si ces femmes choisissent librement la prostitution, je ne vois pas où est le problème sinon de les informer sur les risques de ce métier.
Les féministes persistent dans leur sexisme d'un autre âge qui présente l'homme comme un être sale et dépravé.
Que disent elles de ces femmes qui partent en Afrique ou aux Antilles pour trouver un peu de compagnie avec de ''beaux mâles''?
En toute logique c'est aussi du tourisme sexuel mais là les féministes expliqueront sans doute que ce n'est pas la même chose ou pire arriveront à rendre l'homme coupable...
Et puis autres argument choc, le tourisme sexuel féminin est marginal comme si c'était le sexe ratio dans ce domaine qui avait de l'importance.
Arrêtons ce combat des sexes, nous ne sommes pas dans les pays musulmans ou du tiers monde les femmes peuvent décider et assumer leur choix, il faut jsute exercer une répression impitoyable sur les proxénètes et les réseau de prostitution et la encore même si ce sont des femmes qui les dirigent.

Français / anglais

Please post comments in French on the French website.


A friend of mine told me he

A friend of mine told me he did business in the Ukraine. He was in a pub when a pimp came in with a prostitute and he grabbed her hair and banged it against the table.

He got up, wanted to help her, but people told him the guy is too dangerous.

Every john who uses these girls is guilty of contributing to crimes like this.
These are not spoiled rich escorts. They are poor girls who have no choice, but to sell their bodies under despicable circumstances.


How about men keeping it in their pants?
Who says that they have the right to instant gratification?

This is a client-driven "industry" and as long as there is demand there will be supply.
Every john contributes to the misery of these underage, exploited, pimped out girls.

How about posting only ONCE

How about posting only ONCE ?!?

Laws combatting the sex

Laws combatting the sex industry are ineffective and dangerous, because they push the issue underground, thus making vulnerable people more vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of violence, and making sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/Aids more difficult to address. If FEMEN or others, including the forces of law and order, force sex workers from the streets, they will revert to less safe areas and their informal safety networks will break up.

Shame on Johns

Johns are like horny stray dogs.

"I want to jump on another dog, right now! I don't care which one, just give me a hole quick, because I have an itch.
I don't have the will/skills to get into a relationship, besides, women are there for my pleasure. I don't care about her background, she can be any nationality as I am not interested in a conversation. Actually, I prefer her to shut up. All I want is to satisfy my animal urges. And I have the right to do that as long as I have the money."

This has been going on for thousands of years. The "Haves" exploit the "Have-Nots". The rich country uses the poor country as its brothel.

None of them would want to do this to their mothers, wives or daughters. Or would they?

Shame, shame, shame! Shame the johns! Go Sweden, Go!

Just because John didnt like

Just because John didnt like you "more make up?" doesnt mean John treats other women that way.

I"m just saying...

I love how all you ppl

I love how all you ppl spouting off from your moral high ground...with your over stuffed refrigerators and your spoiled western European lifestyle attitudes feel so free to speak for the hungry.

you would rather they starve,you and FEMEN would rather they starve so you can feel better about yourselves,this article and these comments expose both selfish statism and hypocrisy.
Prostitution isnt the best way to earn money,but if your faced with hunger,for yourself or your family,its better than a slow death painful death on the street.