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The Perspective of Sex Work Legalization in Ukraine

Ukrainian National TV channel 24 visited Elena Tsukerman from All-Ukrainian League “Legalife” in Kiev, made a 1,5 hours interview, the journalists discussed serious topics with Elena, and they even tried to dig deeply in these topics. As a result, they have made a 4 minutes long video on the topic of legalization of sex work in Ukraine. You can see the video (in Ukrainian and Russian) here. You can read the transcript of the video in English, as well as Elena’s comments below.

Caption: "News. Oksana Tropotyaga. Reporter"

Foreign currency loans, loan issues, bills for tuition, health problems of parents and children. And this is just a partial list of what makes women go to work in the sex services industry. They offer their bodies to fans of "morsel" in brothels, their own homes, saunas, massage parlors, in the streets and on the Internet.

Caption: "News. Almost anyone can easily get a job as a prostitute"

"How much are your services, honey?" "Oral sex is 300 UAH (13,5 USD), sex is 500 UAH (22,6 USD), one hour is 600 UAH (27 USD)".

In order to apply for such a job, one does not need any special connections, the job offers can be found directly on classifieds websites. Mostly they recruit to work in brothels or on call. The only criteria are the age and appearance.

Caption: "News. Our colleague has passed a phone interview to a brothel"

"Do you need any medical certificates from me, anything?" "No. It is your own business, it is your own health's safety".

Caption: "News: financial problems force women into prostitution"

Tatiana has been working in a brothel for six months. A nurse's salary would not allow her to repay the loan and rent an accommodation together with her two teenage sons. She has replaced the white gown with the sexual lingerie and stockings.

Caption: "News. Tatiana. Prostitute"

"I'm did not come to this out of my own consent, not because I wanted it or liked it, but because the state has put me in such conditions, pardon my language, "doggy style", so that I had no other choice".

Caption: "News. Oksana Tropotyaga. Reporter"

"The big money that revolve around prostitution cause corruption, which is first to happen within the law enforcement authorities".

Caption: "News. Elena Tsukerman. Acting Director of the Ukrainian sex workers self-organization"

"The police, which regularly does economic, psychological, physical and sexual violence against sex workers, which reaps illegal brothels' income directly from their landlords".

Caption: "News. Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) preys on law enforcement officers, who "run protection racket" on brothels"

The police do not deny anything, but simply report on how they clean their own ranks. This spring several policemen, who were "running protection racket" of a whole network of brothels, were exposed. By the way, the income of werewolves in epaulets reached 300 thousand dollars a month.

Caption: "News. Artem Shevchenko. Head of the Communications Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine"

"Those who really break the law in this area, MIA is fighting with all the forces of the own security's department. And not only them. I have a feeling that the smaller the shadow, the fewer reasons are there for such an income".

Caption: "News. Legalizing prostitution may solve many problems of sex workers"

"Advocates stress that sex workers have no rights. Even in the case of violence, they cannot go to the police, as they work beyond the law. Therefore, the advocates offer to legalize prostitution in Ukraine. This will ensure the safety of "women of the night" and their client's health, and this will also bring income to the state in the form of taxes".

Caption: "News. Elena Tsukerman. Acting Director of the Ukrainian sex workers self-organization"

"Public health, client's health, and, first of all, sex worker's health depend on this (legalization of sex work - Ed.). Of course, there must be some kind of social conditions to enable a person not only to work, but also to live. These are the same conditions as all other workers have: vacation, respectively, contributions to the pension fund, taxes that correspond to real earnings".

Caption: "News. Not all prostitutes want legalization"

A former nurse Tatiana does not even want to hear about the legalization: a woman does not believe that the legal status of prostitutes will make her life easier. "I do not need legalization. Legalization, what's that? I have to pay taxes on what I earned. Why do I have to thank the state and pay it taxes for the fact it put me in a hopeless situation?"

Caption: "News. The bill on legalization would get small chances to get support among the members of parliament"

However, currently MPs are not discussing the idea of legalization of sex work.

Caption: "News. Oleg Firsov. Member of parliament of Ukraine"

"In fact, there are a few liberals and a lot of populists in the Supreme Council of Ukraine. So, I think that this topic would be actively kicked about, the MPs would run to the tribune, they would block it. There would be a lot of populist slogans, but nevertheless, some part of the MPs would evaluate this topic sensibly".

Caption: "News. Draft law on legalization does not exist yet in reality, but in the plans for the future only"

Therefore, a draft law on legalization of prostitution is just an idea s ofar. Sex workers advocate Elena Tsukerman plans to start developing such a draft law soon. Moreover, international advocates are ready to assist her in this.

Caption: "News. Oksana Tropotyaga. Correspondent"

The only things to be done are to determine through whom one can lobby it, and whether Ukrainian society is ready for such a change. Oksana Tropotyaga Alexander Boykotov, News Channel "24".

Elena Tsukerman says that Ukrainian TV and radio keep on speaking more about legalization of sex work. She commented that “in her interview with the journalist of the TV channel 24 Oksana Tropotyaga, a sex worker who covers her face says that she is against legalization as she does not want to pay taxes to the state that had put her into a hopeless situation. This is typical rhetoric of people who were forced into sex work. Somehow journalists “like” making interviews with amateurs and “accidental people” in the field of sex services.

It is a pity that my opinion lacked arguments in the video due to the fact that after the final cut only several sentences that I said were left. I still hope that my main message was heard in the video: as sex workers rights’ activist I think that exactly now as never before it is important to speak-up for the rights of sex workers within the perspective of the need of sex work legalization.  

We know what needs to be done. We need to start with the analysis of the current legislation and its consequences (it important to involve sex workers community activists, NGO representatives, lawyers, advocacy experts and at some point also employees of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and Ministry of Healthcare.

After this, based on the developed recommendations and with involvement of sex work activists and decision-makers (with whom the sex workers community has yet to establish an adequate dialogue), one can begin to develop the necessary amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses. In parallel, a serious research and advocacy work needs to be done along with work with the media, the public, officials of various levels and fields of activity, and MPs.

Then rendering of corrections for attention to the Supreme Council, lobbying for acceptance of these corrections will follow.  And only after the final decriminalization of sex work in Ukraine the state law making institutions together with representatives from sex workers community need to start writing the draft law on legalization.

If our country wants to be a European country in reality, not on paper, equal rights should be guaranteed to all workers without any exception. This means that equal rights should be guaranteed to sex workers as well.  

We know what we need to do. And we will be pursuing our goal”.