Sex work in Ukraine is punishable by law
Sex work is criminalized in Ukraine. Under Ukrainian law, sex work is punishable by either a warning or a fine. In Ukraine, the state has set a minimum income for all persons. Fines, pensions and social benefits are calculated on the basis of this amount.
The fine for sex work in Ukraine is 5 to 10 times the minimum income of citizens – and if a person is caught doing sex work for the second time in a year, the fine is 8 to 15 times the minimum income. The taunt: However, the purchase of sexual services is not prohibited.
Escape into the unknown
Sex work in Ukraine is thus illegal, but the fact that there are no penalties for buying it means that it is widespread and largely ignored by the government. Recently time Ukraine has become a popular destination for sex trafficking. Ukraine is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked across borders for commercial sexual exploitation.
Laws criminalizing organized prostitution and penalties for human trafficking have had little effect, as many convicted traffickers do not end up serving prison sentences. The war in Ukraine has made the country vulnerable. Many Ukrainian women are without jobs, belongings, or assistance, and so many are forced to turn to prostitution and human trafficking as a source of income. Thus, sex workers who have previously faced stigma, punishment, and persecution are particularly hard hit. They now flee to foreign countries and are at the mercy of human traffickers and dubious job offers.
War has been raging in Ukraine since February and people are fleeing their homes. Families leave their homes and relatives behind and take only the bare necessities with them. We spoke with a sex worker who agreed to give us some insight into the dire situation. Sophie has been in Germany for some time now and still has many contacts in Ukraine; also colleagues with whom she worked in Ukraine.
Exclusive interview with a Ukrainian escort
Hi Sophie, thank you for agreeing to talk to us about the current situation and what impact it has had on your life and work so far. How long have you been a sex worker and how long have you been in Germany?
Sophie: I’ve been in the industry for about six years now. During the first year, however, I expected that something bad would happen at any moment, that I would get in trouble with the police or that my parents would kick me out. So I only met a couple of customers a month. I came to Germany two weeks after the war began, around March 11. So that was almost four months ago now.
How was the way here for you? Did you have an easy time getting a foothold here?
Sophie: First of all, I had to turn to volunteers in Poland, they were very helpful, and I had Polish friends from a refugee camp take me. So after a few days I was finally in Warsaw.
That was quite a challenge to get to Berlin at that time, because all the refugees were transported to Hanover. We were not allowed to stop in Berlin and let us off. So I had a big detour.
Here, my friends (my psychotherapist would insist on calling them clients) helped me in the beginning with accommodations and the registration process. I had a lot of bureaucratic adventures. My life is still not stable, I don’t really have a permanent place to stay. Also, I would like to try working for agencies, strip clubs or brothels to see what is better for me. I am also interested in porn.
“Only someone with a gun could protect me”.
Can you briefly explain in your own words what the situation is like for you right now, and especially for the sex workers who are still on site?
Sophie: I come from Western Ukraine, so I have only economic losses. My money was mostly in cash in Ukrainian currency and that is pretty worthless now. I left it to my parents. They don’t work and may need it.
Since the beginning of the war there has been a curfew, so it was impossible to work at night. We had lots of air raid alerts, and every time it felt like you were going to die now. So for me, it wasn’t really the bombing, but the expectation of being killed in one way or another that made me leave the country. I wasn’t ready for war, I couldn’t protect myself, and there was no one to take care of me if things really got tough.
In that situation, I could imagine having sex only with someone who knew how to handle a gun and would have been willing to protect me. I guess it’s just the instinctive reaction to the stress and helplessness. All other possible sex partners were uninteresting for me in this situation, which seems to be a logical behavior. No amount of money or other means can protect a woman from being raped or killed. And I didn’t feel like I could have protected myself.
What is the situation like for sex workers who flee and try to find a foothold elsewhere. Have you or colleagues also had experience with this?
Sophie: I haven’t formed a stable bond with other sex workers. In Ukraine, they hide all sorts of information from each other to avoid getting into trouble. I had a friend who now lives in France and travels to Dubai a lot, but we never talked openly about her work. My former sex worker partner put me in dangerous situations before the war, so I never contacted her again out of concern for my own safety.
Another escort I had worked with got into trouble with the police before the war, and the person who sought clients for her warned me not to contact her again because she was being watched by the police. Another girl disappeared without a trace almost a year before the war. I hope she is doing well. Others had families and stopped working or moved abroad before the war. A stripper from my club is currently looking for an opportunity to work in Europe, but without sex.
Many women are currently victims of trafficking and exploitation in the sex industry. What can be done to help?
Sophie: These women need to understand that in Europe they can work legally and under much better conditions. I guess most women who escaped war would rather be used as sex slaves at home by those who “help” them than be forced into prostitution against their will, although slavery at home is certainly not a good solution. Especially not if the woman is forced to pay for the “help” with sex and other services. And when you become financially dependent on a man, things can get really ugly. Plus, women may not know that someone could actually help!
Just like I had no idea about the organization that helps sex workers in Ukraine. So I think the most important thing is to share information in Ukrainian. If the person does not have a phone, it would be good if potential clients also knew how to help the sex worker and where to call for her. Sooner or later, a German customer here will encounter someone like that, but he would have to react quickly enough. I think in Germany it should be effective to call the police.
Last but not least, can you imagine that you would like to return to Ukraine at some point or do you still see Germany as your adopted country in the future?
Sophie: I come from Western Ukraine and have been back there once before during the war. It is a relatively safe part of the country. Before the war I planned to buy an apartment there, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to do that and now I have to earn my money anew. All my family is still there, so I will go there regularly. Unfortunately, I do not see any possibility to work in my city during the war. After the war, I may be able to return.
Especially considering that life in Germany is still much more expensive and I don’t want to work in sex work forever. I have been looking for programs to study in Germany, but so far I am more in survival mode and prefer to spend my time looking for clients. So I don’t really have any plans for the future at the moment. I’m just trying to achieve financial stability and make more friends to support each other.
Kaufmich functions as a free social network. The focus here is on the community and the exchange among members. Founded in 2009, the portal now has over 8 million visitors and 150 million page views per month, making it the largest community for sex workers and clients in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The portal is the place to go for escorts and helps them organize their daily work, share with the community and find new clients. Kaufmich clearly stands out from pure ad sites and search engines, because here the relationship with the escorts goes and the understanding of how the job of sex workers works today in the foreground.
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That is why the largest community for sex workers and customers in Germany also chose Kaufmich as its name, to make it clear that it is not a private dating platform where you look for friends or life partners, but that this is the oldest trade in the world. Kaufmich empowers and supports sex workers every day to work independently, ensure authenticity and safety. This is ensured by features such as the Date Manager, a rating system, and a safer sex badge that allows sex workers to highlight the availability of safer sex services. Likewise, profile verification and 18+ checks increase trust.
Customers can find everything from a stylish date to a quick erotic adventure to the perfect escort service on Kaufmich. Interested parties make contact here discreetly at eye level, individual arrangements remain between the contacting parties. Paid sex is no longer taboo and the community is growing every day. Kaufmich brings the oldest trade in the world into the 21st century.