Young Ukrainian Women Want to Leave their Country

came across this shocking article on hartford-hwp:

Because of its concern about the growing trafficking of women for prostitution, the ILO has recently increased its co-operation with NGOS to stamp this out. Trade Union World correspondent Samuel Grumiau recently had the opportunity to look into this phenomenon further during his trip to Kiev, one of the major departure points for female prostitutes from Eastern Europe. We are publishing his report in three parts to coincide with the Annual Meeting of the ICFTU Women's Committee, taking place in Brussels this Thursday and Friday, October 21 and 22.

Brussels, October 21, 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): Kateryna Levchenko is the national coordinator of “La Strada”, an NGO which helps women caught in prostitution networks and carries out prevention campaigns in the Ukraine.

La Strada has set up a telephone line where people can phone on the subject of prostitution abroad. What type of calls do you receive?

Every day we receive between 20 and 30 phone calls from women who have been offered work abroad, or who ask us how to get there. In the Ukraine, around one million young women aged 15 to 29 would like to go and live abroad, in particular those living in small towns. Many companies take advantage of this desire and invite them to come and work as hostesses, governesses, domestic helps, etc. It is difficult to know whether these companies are working legally or not, but it is very tempting for the Ukrainian women when one realises that between 60% and 70% of the unemployed people in this country are women. They are unaware or they have forgotten that there are also 18 million unemployed people in Western Europe!

How do the networks manage to get travel documents?

From what I understand, they have good contacts in the embassies. For an NGO like ourselves, it is sometimes difficult to get a visa, for example to travel to the Netherlands … but I know a lot of Ukrainian women who “work” there!

A second method is via intermediate countries: Ukrainian citizens do not need visas to travel to Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary. There their passports can be changed, or they cross into Western Europe by river.

For popular “work destinations” like Greece or Turkey, it is very easy to obtain visas. For example, a 3 month visa for Turkey costs just $ 10 at the border.

How much do they pay to the middlemen?

This varies tremendously, from $20 to 2,000! At times I say to them: if you have $2,000, why do you still want to go abroad? The worst thing is that they are promised that they will have to pay this money only when they reach their destination. A $300 debt can be multiplied ten-fold, and no one knows exactly what they are supposed to repay, that is up to the procurer or the brothel keeper.

Are there minors among the victims?

It is not common because it is more dangerous for the pimps, who are punished more severely if caught. It is also difficult for a girl of under 18 to cross the border because she needs her parents' permission. Yet we know cases of minors who have passports which state that they are 20 or older.

Many Ukrainian women end up as prostitutes in Cyprus. Why this country in particular?

Cyprus is a very popular holiday destination for inhabitants of the former USSR, and the immigration laws are lax there. Holidaymakers like to find women who speak their language, but these girls' living conditions are horrible — sleeping two or three in the same bed, in tiny rooms.

We also know many dramatic cases of Ukrainian or Russian women in the Arab Emirates, where the police make no difference between voluntary and forced prostitution, even if a woman goes to them for help. The laws against prostitution are very severe there. Demand is strong because Arab men like white women.

How much can women trapped in these networks earn?

That varies a lot, but never more than $1,000 a month. In many cases they receive no more than 15 or 20% of what they earn because money is docked for lodgings, food, cigarettes. In the former Yugoslavia, an hour with a girl costs $100, but she herself receives only $10 to 30. At times their clients are UN soldiers. We know a lot of cases where Ukrainian or Russian soldiers have bought these women's freedom and where they have been able to return to their country.

How do you organise the preventive work in the Ukraine?

There are first of all the media, which give wide coverage to our campaigns. We also publish brochures and information material for social workers, NGOs and schools. In particular these provide the telephone numbers of the Ukrainian embassies, the organisations that can help them in the various countries, legal texts, etc. We also give a lot of information sessions in the schools.
Sociological data

The International Organization for Migration has carried out a study among Ukrainian women who could potentially leave for abroad (1). A questionnaire filled in by 1,189 young women in ten regions of the country tells us, among other things, that:

Major factors leading women to leave the country are:

* Better income: 53.4%
* Finding a job: 28.9%
* The western life style 6.3%
* Putting together a starting capital: 5.3%

Reasons holding women back from going abroad are:

* Family ties in the Ukraine: 24%
* Lack of financial resources: 21% Fear of living abroad: 18%
* Lack of knowledge of foreign languages: 16%
* Lack of professional skills: 12%
* Sufficient income in the Ukraine: 5%
* Bad health: 2%