Julie Bindel

    It’s no surprise that traffickers are targeting Ukraine

    It’s no surprise that traffickers are targeting Ukraine
    (Photo: Getty)
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    Over the past weeks, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I have witnessed individuals expressing shock and disbelief at the blatant sexual violation of women and girls fleeing their homeland. Feminist colleagues in Ukraine and Russia tell me that there are thousands of displaced women and girls without any income, food or shelter. The war has become the perfect opportunity for pimps to trick or coerce women into prostitution.

    We should know this by now. Wherever there is war and conflict, resulting in misplaced, vulnerable women and girls, there will be pimps waiting to pounce. But even so, there are those that should know better, such as some aid workers, claiming that, ‘No one saw it coming’. 

    There are also those determined to hold on to the view that trafficking exists on a different planet to local prostitution. I can only assume that these people do not realise that many European brothels are already full to bursting of women trafficked from countries such as Romania and Thailand.

    And then there are those that consider it abhorrent that underage girls are being exploited but that it is fine for those over the age of 18.

    Germany, which has a legal sex trade, has long been exposed as a cesspit of abuse, thanks to the feminists who are daring to publicly criticise state-sanctioned pimping. The country has earned its reputation in recent years of being ‘the bordello of Europe’.

    There are numerous brothels in Germany that advertise deals where the buyer pays a flat rate for a burger, beer and ‘as many f***s as he can manage’. When I was in Munich researching legalised prostitution, I heard about the case of a 19-year old, heavily pregnant woman who was hired for a gang-bang in a German brothel by six men, four of whom wore horror masks. One survivor disclosed that in legal brothels she had been used by 60 men a day.

    The idea that ‘sex work’ is good, and trafficking bad ignores the huge amount of evidence of harm in accepting the buying and selling of women’s bodies for men’s one-sided sexual pleasure. This state of affairs leads to the importation of ‘merchandise’ from poorer countries of desperate and disenfranchised women and girls. Claiming that there is no relationship between local sex markets and the international importation of women is akin to saying that domestic homicide has nothing to do with domestic violence and abuse. One leads to the other. In other words, not all prostituted women are trafficked, but trafficking could not exist without prostitution being accepted by governments and citizens alike.

    I have travelled to Ukraine on a number of occasions, because it is one of the hotspots for trafficking in Eastern Europe. It is also host to a vibrant ‘male order bride’ industry, which is basically fulltime prostitution with cooking and cleaning thrown in. I have met the men travelling from North America and Europe looking for Ukrainian brides, having been told that these women are desperate to move to the West to escape poverty and hardship.

    I heard from some of the women that have since escaped these marriages that it was not uncommon for the men to also pimp their new brides out in the local brothels as well as using them for their own ends. Stereotypes about Ukrainian women are that they are so desperate to escape that they prefer to be taken overseas to be sexually exploited than to remain in their own country.

    Punters in countries that border Ukraine, such as Germany, will be delighted to find ‘fresh meat’ as one sex buyer described Ukrainian women, in the numerous brothels. Turnover is important to the pimps, as it keeps the customer happy.

    It is completely naive to think that the normalisation and legalisation of prostitution is not a driving force for those trafficking gangs to sell women? If you were a pimp looking to make a fast buck, where would you go. A country where selling women’s bodies is frowned upon and the buyers criminalised, or one where the women are treated no differently from a beer and a burger?