Report on the Violation of Rights and Freedoms of Ukrainian Women in Foreign Countries
Olexandr Petrovic' AKIMOV
Chief of Operations Department
Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
According to the UN, most countries in the world have seen an increase in criminal activity. Rape, forced prostitution and drug trafficking is on the rise. These crimes often implicate foreigners and stateless persons, including Ukrainian migrants. These crimes directly violate the rights and freedom of women; they are pertinent to both the legal and illegal emigration of Ukrainian women.
According to the Ukrainian General Consulate in New York, between 1992 and 1996, the U.S.A. issued long-term residency permits to 92 000 Ukrainian citizens. As of July 1997 however, only 20 000 out of the 92 000 had registered with the consulate. These data demonstrate the difficulty of legally protecting the human rights of Ukrainians - it is nearly impossible to protect these rights on a global scale due to the lack of information about place of residency and employment of Ukrainians iiving abroad. The situation is even more complicated for women working as prostitutes. In the U.S.A. and other countries these women are usually forced by gangs to become involved in other criminal activities such as stealing and drug trafficking; hence, these women do not provide Ukrainian consulates with any personal infermation.
Statistics on crime in Poland indicate that Ukrainian citizens were responsible for a high number of crimes committed there between 1995-1997. In 1994, the Polish police arrested only 550 Russians while 1069 Ukrainians were arrested; in 1996, 1104 Belorussians, compared with 2072 Ukrainians, were arrested. The same trend is apparent in many other countries, however, the types of crimes committed by Ukrainians are usually not serious and are therefore rarely documented. Yet, statistics provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that the number of Ukrainian women selling their bodies is rising.
The rising numbers can be explained by a global increase in legal and illegal trafficking of women, an essential part of the ,,sex industry", fuelled mainly by the sexual desires of well-to-do men. Foreign media such as Ukrajinsky noviny (Athens, no. 2, 1997, Bid~ci z t~bora, for example) usually suggest that the economic situation and the low standard of living are the main reasons why Ukrainian women emigrate and work as prostitutes. This assessment is only partially true, however, as international trafficking of women has much deeper roots.
Most of the larger cities in eastern, central and Western Europe have experienced some sort of,,sexmania". This fact applies to Athens, Berlin, Budapest,Vienna, Hamburg, Moscow, Prague, Riga, Zurich, and many others. Dance clubs, brothels, por-
no-movies, night-clubs, bars wit prostitutes, striptease shows - all these demonstrate that business, crime and the sex industry are all closely connected. Their connection is clearly demonstrated by the fact that many elite night clubs and restaurants include erotic performances in their repertoire. These include, to name just a few erotic dancing, erotic performances with a dildo, lesbian shows masochistic entertainment, peepshows, sexshow, and sodomy. According to the February 1997 issue of a Moscow monthly Paris sex clubs obtain peepshow licences from the French Ministry of Culture where they are categorized as licences for ,,performance art".
According to certain Ukrainians informed about the trade of Ukrainian women and connected to their country's consulate in Athens, almost 3000 young Ukrainian women are involved with prostitution in Athens and Solun. Most of these women were pulled into this line of work as a result of coming into contact with Ukrainian and Greek criminals involved in the trafficking of humans. In Greece, the exploitation of prostitutes in the hands of experienced pimps amounts to slavery. Prostitution is directly linked with murders, criminal threats, and blackmail.
These Ukrainian women are drugged and live in constant humiliation. If they try to escape they may be tortured, beaten, and kept under house-arrest. Victims of the sex industry in other European countries experience similar rough treatment.
Established companies that trade Ukrainian, Russian, and Belorussian women usually make deliveries to Turkey or France. Most of these companies operate as ,,marriage agencies" - i.e. agencies that provide ,,sex-goods". Among the most wellknown companies in France,,,Cabinet Madame de Saget",,,MMM Consel", and ,,BUSCHON", and all tend to prefer women from Moscow. Other companies prefer women from Minsk, Kyjev, and Odessa. Prostitute recruiters videotape stereotypically pretty women naked, promising them work in showbusiness - as models, singers, dancers - or marriage to wealthy foreigners. Women taken abroad in such a manner are then sold to foreigners in the sex-trade industry. Sometimes they get invited to castingshows and receive short-term working visas. When the visas expire, however, they may not have enough money to get back home and are thus forced into prostitution.
According to the Ukrainian General Consulate in Istanbul more than 2000 Ukrainian women work as prostitutes in that city. They become involved in paid sex in the ways described above; they are promised help in finding employment, meeting a potential husband, or getting an education. Often women who get involved in prostitution in Turkey attempt to become procuresses in order to improve their own situation. They then recruit their friends from the Ukraine and begin falsifying documents or selling narcotics. These activities often lead to arrests by local police authorities, followed by imprisonment or deportation. On June 9-10, 1997, for instance, the Ukrainian General Consulate in Istanbul issued deportation documents to six Ukrainian women who were arrested during a night raid by the Turkish police.
According to the Italian Consulate in the Ukraine, Ukrainian women who travel abroad as a part of a theatre or concert ensemble are the ones who most often become victims to ,,skillful con artists". It is important to realize that false promises made
to women - of theatre and concert opportunities abroad - are a basic tool for manipulating and illegally transporting women across the border.
An attempt is being made to legalize a certificate to confirm the health status of future prostitutes; likewise, a certificate would be put in place for work in ,,showbusiness". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can file a court case against a person attempting to legalize such documents as a certificate that could facilitate the trafficking of Ukrainian women and forced prostitution. This point indicates that a suitable framework for employment must be created in the Ukraine and that the implementation of this framework might effectively help prevent any kind of trafficking with women.
There is growing concern about prostitution in the former Yugoslavia. Ukrainian women go there to work; most often they work illegally in night clubs and night shows. Recruiters who offer women employment abroad skillfully hide the true purpose of the trip. Through a whole series of lies, Ukrainian women are exported to Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia where they are subsequently sold. The situation in these countries is much worse than in others. The leaders of prostitution rings usually confiscate the women's travel documents, hold them under constant supervision, and do not permit them to keep their earnings. Such harsh treatment prevents these young women from returning to their home countries. Moreover, they are housed in very poor conditions and not provided with any medical care which is leading to an increase in sexually-transmitted disease and other illness.
Extremely harsh physical and psychological abuse has been reported; in some cases, the victims have tried to rebel and as a result were brutally beaten and subjected to even greater psychological torture. Some of these women are now crippled; some have tried to commit suicide; some have voluntarily reported themselves to the police.
Various methods are used to gain control over rebellious women: they are drugged, beaten, isolated from the other women, sold to other pimps, and/or have all their personal belongings confiscated. For this reason, deported Ukrainian women often have no belongings or personal documents. At times they are seriously ill.
It is important to point out that in some cases, the women are aware of the real purpose of the trip. They do not, therefore, seek out a consulate until they are exploited, abused, go bankrupt, and are thrown out on the street.
These facts apply to all European countries that traffic Ukrainian women on a large scale. Ukrainian consulates have therefore been urged to implement the necessary measures to enable them to offer legal help to women whose rights and freedoms are being violated, to women who voluntarily/involuntarily become involved in the international sex trade. The consulates are in contact with police authorities in some countries; they follow criminal activities connected with prostitution; they draw on international experience in order to stop this sort of trafficking.
It is clear that measures taken to date have been insufficient. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore believes that it is necessary to create, with the help of the media and non-governmental agencies, a governmental programme which would
effectively fight against criminal activities which jeopardize the honour and dignity
of Ukrainian women. Existing laws must be amended to toughen sentences for those involved in the trafficking of women.
It is crucial to examine international legal treaties on the protection of women's
rights and freedoms, as well as to create a special UN commission which would deal with this problem on an international level, with the help of experts from International Organization for Migration, International Labour Organization, World Health Organization and the other involved institutions.