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CO “Legalife-Ukraine” took part in presentation of the UHHRU study “The Impact of Armed Conflict in East of Ukraine on Female Sex Workers”
On January 23, 2020 in Kiev, the presentation of the study “The impact of armed conflict in East of Ukraine on female sex workers” was held. The study was worked out by the Documentation Center of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) together with the Charitable Organization “Legalife-Ukraine”. Thus, in Ukraine for the first time they examined how the war in the Donbass affected sex workers, and made a “sociological portrait” of sex service providers in armed conflict.
Research in Ukrainian can be found by this link.
These studies were collected in January-February 2019 in cities on the territory controlled by Ukrainian government. Sex workers from Mariupol, Slavyansk, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk, Rubezhnoye and Kramatorsk were interviewed. The survey, which was attended by 61 respondents, aged 21 to 48 years old, was carried out by representatives of the CO “Legalife-Ukraine”.
The coordinator of the Documentation Center of UHHRU, Alexei Bida, emphasized: “Given the development of European law, Ukraine should move in its practice and in legislation to completely abolish any administrative or criminal penalties for sex work, while ensuring the unconditional responsibility of persons exploiting the prostitution of others.” He added that UHHRU will continue to protect the human rights of sex workers in Ukraine and plans to continue to do research in this sphere in the future.
Statistical data research analyst at Documentation Center of UHHRU Julia Pavlyk noted: “More than half of the respondents (55.7%) expressed a desire to stop providing sexual services. In many cases, they indicated a specific activity, type of work that they would like to do. These were mainly types of work in the social sphere or the service sector. 9.8% of respondents said they would like to continue to work in the sphere of sex services, but so that the work becomes legal.”
Summarizing the speeches of the representatives of the UHHRU, the CO “Legalife-Ukraine” Coordinator Nataliia Dorofeeva noted that, in general, the “gray zone” research data are consistent with the CO “Legalife-Ukraine” research conducted in 2017 on the territory controlled by the government. This means that the armed conflict did not significantly affect the quantitative growth of sex work in the region – an increase of only several percent was noted. And this is a rather unexpected result.
The main findings in both studies are:
1. The main impetus for engaging in sex work is general poverty and a lack of hope for improving of the life conditions for the better.
2. The low level of earnings. Most of sex workers earn 3-5 thousand hryvnias per month (130-200$).
3. There is a low level of education among sex workers. Up to 20% of sex workers do not have completed primary education.
4. A high level of stigma and self-stigma towards sex workers and among sex workers has been noted, which impedes access to medical care, legal assistance and advocacy of human rights.
Nataliia Isaieva, Director of CO “Legalife-Ukraine”, noted that the criminalization of sex work, together with stigmatization of sex workers, significantly worsens the situation with access to medical care, legal assistance and advocating for human rights among sex workers.
She also noted that one of the consequences of the armed conflict in East of Ukraine is a quantitative increase in sex work outside the “gray zone”, so in the study of CO “Legalife-Ukraine” numerous facts of the transition to sex work by IDP-women (Internally Displaced Persons) were noted, which in many cases is caused by difficult living conditions, poverty, and low state custody of IDPs in Ukraine.