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Ukraine is Continuing to Kill Sex Workers

For the third consecutive year, on December the 17th sex workers called for society to respect the human dignity of persons involved in commercial sex, to combat discrimination and violence against one of the most marginalized groups of our society.

"Half a year ago, a sex worker died a violent death in Kirovograd. Recently two male escorts who provided sexual services were killed in Sevastopol, and there are cases of girls disappearing. This year we recorded dozens of human rights abuse cases against sex-workers, occurring in almost half of Ukraine's regions” - says Irina Mishina, the chair of the Ukrainian league Legalife.

According to recent estimates, about 63 to 93 thousand women are involved in commercial sex in Ukraine. Virtually all of them are working illegally, and regularly become the victim of violence, both by customers and law enforcers.

“It is just awful, when your rights are violated by those who are supposed to protect them. Who do we call for assistance then? It seems that sex workers are not regarded as human beings in general. Of course, they are forced to break the law, but that is for administrative reasons, and should not subject them into coercion to have free sex, being beaten or having their money taken. No one is allowed to use violence against anyone else" - said Natalia Isaeva, leader of the sex workers group initiative in Kirovograd.

“Distrust of police and forced rush into agreements with customers reduce the ability of sex workers to eliminate potentially violent clients or those who are under the effect of alcohol or drugs. Moreover, law enforcement officials recently began to consider the presence of condoms as a further proof of prostitution. It makes sex workers discard condoms, leading to an increased risk of contracting various infections, including HIV / AIDS” - stated Helen Zuckerman, head of the public center for sex workers in Kiev.

The marginalized situation of sex workers and the increasing violence against them had a negative effect on the HIV epidemic and other infection levels of other STDs.

During the past years the efforts of over 40 local NGOs with the support of the Alliance managed to provide screenings to more than 44 thousand sex workers. The percentage of positive screening tests among sex workers in specific diseases, including syphilis, is twice the Ukrainian average (6.6% vs 3.1%).

Ukrainian League Legalife was the first such organization in the former Soviet Union to get officially registered by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. The registration process took almost a year and a half. The organization aims in particular to respect the human rights of sex workers and to defend their interests at national and local levels.