Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wed, 1 Jul 1998 15:51:50 -0700 (PDT)
Ukraine: Film Warns Of Forcible Prostitution Abroad
By Lily Hyde
Kyiv, 30 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Girls behind prison bars vainly try to hide
their faces. Prostitutes in
brothel windows turn away from the camera. One woman tells a chilling
story of being sold by her
husband into the clutches of a mob. Others giggle coyly when they are
asked what they do and
boast of how much they earn.
It's all in "Ukrexport," a 30-minute film exploring the fate of Ukrainian
women working abroad in the
Made by the television production company Studio 1+1, the film was
produced through a joint
U.S.-European Union initiative on the prevention of trafficking in women,
directed by the
International Organization for Migration (IOM). The intention is to inform
Ukrainian women of
possible dangers of working abroad.
Ukraine is currently one of the largest "exporters" of women, working
either willingly or under
duress, in the international sex industry. Some are fooled by
advertisements offering apparently
innocent, well-paid work as housekeepers, dancers, or models. Later,
their passports are taken
from them and they are forced, often violently, to work as prostitutes.
Others are drawn to work voluntarily in the business, attracted by the
promise of profits beyond
anything they could earn in Ukraine, where most women are either
unemployed or underemployed.
However, there is usually a catch to the high earnings: the criminal rings
which run international
prostitution take the lion's share.
"The film intends to advise that, though you think you will be making a lot
of money, that's not the
case. There are a lot of middlemen," said Natalka Kocan, coordinator of
the IOM project in
Ukraine, which is funded by the U.S. State Department.
Filming was not easy, said the film's director, Nikolai Shavel.
The crew was banned from filming in Amsterdam's red-light district, and
had to go to Brussels
instead. In Turkey, authorities allowed cameras into an overcrowded
detention center for people
awaiting deportation, only after half the inmates were moved out and
carpets laid on the floors.
Almost all the women interviewed hid their faces from the camera, for
fear that relatives and friends
in Ukraine might recognize them.
Reactions to "Ukrexport" have been mixed. Kara Galbraith from the
Ukraine office of the Newly
Independent States (NIS)-United States Women's Consortium welcomed it
as a good aid to raising
awareness. "We needed to have a film made that deals primarily with the
trafficking of Ukrainian
women abroad and the lack of work opportunities at home," she said.
Two women who work with victims of trafficking, and who asked to be
identified only as Katya and
Olga, were more critical. Many of the unrepentant Ukrainian women,
awaiting deportation from
Turkey, did not regard themselves as victims, and one said it was
possible to earn up to 5,000
dollars a month in her line of work. Olga and Katya said that including
those remarks in the film
might encourage women to work as prostitutes abroad. "Prostitution is
the woman's private choice,
but we don't really want anyone to present prostitution as a great job,"
In the section on Brussels, the camera lingers on women posing in the
windows of the red-light
district. The town appears brightly colored, the girls are beautiful. Katya
objected to what she
viewed as the element of voyeurism and fascination in those scenes. "It
portrayed the face of a
prostitute, not a victim of sexual traffic," she said. Shavel was surprised
by the criticism. He said he
was directed to make a film that "would make no woman ever wanting to
go abroad." Shavel said
the crew found that prostitutes are indeed exploited. "They work for
bread and butter and
cigarettes," he said. However, he acknowledged that, in Turkey, the
women can earn good money in
decent working conditions. He also said that Turks expressed respect
and liking for Ukrainian
women, who constitute, by far, the largest ethnic group among the
country's foreign sex workers.
Besides "Ukrexport," the IOM has commissioned two other documentary
films. The organization
has also produced posters and leaflets detailing typical trafficking cases,
and recommending simple
precautions for women considering work abroad, such as ensuring their
foreign job is clearly defined
in a contract and leaving a photocopy of their passport and contact
numbers and addresses with
friends and family. The leaflet also provides contact numbers of
Ukrainian embassies and consulates
in some of the primary destinations for women working abroad, including
Germany, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Serbia and Turkey.
The printed material is being distributed through women's groups and aid
organizations, youth clubs
and regional employment centers via the Ministries of Family and Youth,
Education, and Labor and
Social Policy. The film was aired on nationwide television this month.
The IOM, in association with women's groups, has also organized a
series of screenings followed by
group discussions in various cities around Ukraine. A group of teenagers
from the Ukrainian debate
center who were shown the film by the NIS-U.S. Women's Consortium,
found "Ukrexport" a
powerful argument against leaving the hardships of Ukraine to seek their
fortunes in other countries.
When a somewhat large prostitute appeared in a Brussels window,
some of the Ukrainian teens
giggled. But, when she spoke of having 20 clients a day, a wave of
shock and disgust rippled
through the viewing room.
"It's like a horror film," said one 17-year-old girl. "I wouldn't go abroad
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