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14 Dec, 2009 12:03

“Ukraine is not a bordello”

Ahead of the Euro 2012 Football Championship which Ukraine will co-host, a group of feminist activists in Ukraine are protesting the rise of prostitution and sex tourism to draw attention to the problem in the country.

At this stage, few politicians are paying attention to the demands to clamp down on the billion-dollar vice industry.

Despite a cold winter in Kiev, members of Ukraine's first feminist movement called FEMEN are protesting what they describe as prostitution in the modeling industry. The girls demonstrated half-naked right outside the venue of the Miss Ukraine beauty contest.

On Monday, a half-naked group of FEMEN activists have braced the winter cold for a football match against prostitutes.

They have been protesting the rise of sex tourism, which is expected to boom during the Euro 2012 football competition.

”We are trying to resolve two major issues of sex-tourism and prostitution in our country,” claims FEMEN movement leader Anna Gutsol. “This industry is rapidly gathering strength and politicians are doing nothing about it.”

The group was founded two years ago. It immediately went on the offensive with a campaign against escalating sex-tourism and prostitution called “Ukraine is not a brothel”. They say the orange revolution five years ago has made matters worse.

“All visas for foreign tourists were abolished in 2005 by the new power, and it resulted in a huge invasion of sex-tourists in our country,” explains Anna Gutsol. “And this industry has been on the rise ever since.”

“Now I can’t walk freely down Kiev’s main street Kreshchatik,” adds FEMEN movement activist Aleksandra Shevchenko. “These sex-tourists literally try to grab me every time and I sometimes have to use force against them.”

The FEMEN movement has combined sex and humor to highlight some of the serious problems facing Ukraine.

The girls mud-wrestled in Independence square to depict the dirtiness of Ukrainian politics and organized marches in bikinis made of cloth face masks to criticize the panic over the swine flu epidemic.

  ”Many criticize us for our methods, calling them too extravagant and immoral,” says FEMEN activist Galina Sozanskaya, “But we understand that this is the only way to be heard in this country. If we staged simple protests with banners, then our claims would not have been noticed.”

The girls hope they have managed to make people think about the sex tourism problem and have made politicians hear them.

“In our country it is already very good that people are talking about the issue. After we held pickets at the parliament, we now know that some deputies are talking about our initiative to outlaw prostitution,” expresses FEMEN movement leader Anna Gutsol.

“However, in reality, we understand that an anti-prostitution law will not be passed any time soon. Moreover, it could even be legalized – simply because some deputies could be involved in that industry, which brings in around $750 million a year.”

The FEMEN movement has more than 15,000 followers in Ukraine and beyond, but they do not have any financial or political backers.

For the time being, the group has no plans to stand in elections, but protests will continue regardless.