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Foreigners flock to Kiev in search of wives, girlfriends or just plain sex.
“We are certain that the aim of your visit to our country is absolutely decent,” one flier says. “Unfortunately ... your compatriots come to Ukraine to get easy sex using the fact that Ukraine girls are poor, unprotected and naive.”
FEMEN strives to add teeth to laws against prostitution. At the moment, sex workers and pimps pay a a fine (although very small), while clients are left alone. The organization would like to see sex tourism defined in the legal code and clients punished as well, and possibly deported from the country. Recent anti-prostitution legislation was introduced at the beginning of the year, but so far has languished, Hutsol said.
Ultimately, FEMEN wants to change how all foreigners regard Ukrainian women, who suffer from an association with the sex trade throughout Europe, as well as how Ukrainian women view themselves.
“The basic problem is that we lack emancipation,” Hutsol said. “Men take care of us economically — men provide everything. Very few women see any kind of independent future.”
On a recent Friday night, Hutsol and her cohorts conducted a major action under Kiev’s central monument. German electronic-music celebrity DJ Hell provided the sounds for a mini rave, while dozens of college students paraded in avant garde fashion from local designers. At the end, a group of protesters, dressed only in bikinis, held up a banner and shouted, “Ukraine is not a bordello!”
Many young women among the hundreds of onlookers supported FEMEN’s message that foreign men should also appreciate Ukrainian culture and history, and that it was insulting when they spent their days simply chasing introductions.
The majority of those questioned, however, said that the foreigners were in general very respectful, and in many cases better behaved than their own male population. Many said that they had foreign friends and boyfriends, and that men would not come here if local women were not themselves interested in meeting non-Ukrainians.
“We love you all very much,” said Yana Pashchits, 19, a student, who was participating in the fashion show. “We want you to come here.”
Nevertheless, FEMEN’s message was lost on some of the crowd.
Three Danish 30-year-old professionals happened upon the action, just three hours after arriving in Kiev for a long-weekend. “This is what it’s all about,” pointing to one of their number’s T-shirt, which read, bluntly, “I Love Ukrainian Girls,” and staring at the half-dressed beauties parading around him. However, when told what the demo was actually for, and that they were in fact being interviewed for a Western publication, they insisted that they had not come just to meet women.
But Rasmus Anderson, a product manager, added, almost as an afterthought: “You have to agree that there are some very pretty girls here.”
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