Sex tourism: The darker, cynical side of modern Ukraine

Today’s Ukraine has the unwanted title of being one of the world leaders in global prostitution. A staggering 25% of all sex workers in Europe are thought to be Ukrainian, while the country is also a major source of girls trafficked into sex slavery throughout the EU and Middle East. Inside the Ukraine the sex trade remains a huge shadow industry worth billions of dollars a year in untaxed incomes.

A thriving sector

Visitors to Kiev will soon find evidence of this thriving sex trade sector. Lads standing on Kiev street corners hand out glossy fliers advertising hourly rates and touts invite you to downtown apartments full of girls and booze, while thousands of internet sites offer a run-down of lurid services. After dark, part-time working girls and opportunist first-timers prowl the nightclub scene looking for likely customers – inevitably, foreign males are preferred targets.

This has been more or less the case since the lawless years of the 1990s, but in recent years the issue has become even more of a national embarrassment as the international sex tourism trade has begun to flourish. The 2005 decision to lift visa restrictions for visitors to Ukraine, which came as a direct result of the euphoria and optimism of the Orange Revolution, has certainly made Ukraine far more accessible, but it has also led to Kiev’s emergence as Europe’s unofficial new sex tourism capital.

Today there is simply no getting away from the casual presence of prostitution throughout much of Ukraine’s social scene. The arrival of the sex tourism crowds – many from nearby Turkey the Middle East – has introduced new tensions to the social interaction between Ukrainian and international communities and added a new dimension to the sexual politics of the Ukrainian capital. Thankfully most sex tourists tend to be keen to get down to business, so to speak, so this unwelcome trend has not totally polluted the nightlife scene and can still be avoided. However, it has become something of a running joke that whereas foreign males used to assume that all Ukrainian girls were prostitutes, it is now more common for Ukrainian girls to assume that visiting foreign males are sex tourists.

Happiness is possible to find, but be aware of the many scams

While the sex trade represents the darker, cynical side of modern Ukraine, this should by no means be read to suggest that it is impossible to meet a genuine Ukrainian lady or enjoy a meaningful encounter beyond the shadows of green card ambitions and naked commerce.

While stories of foolish expats being taken for a ride by Ukrainian gold diggers are legion, examples of happy marriages are equally plentiful. Nevertheless, caution is advised at all times as there are inevitably many scams involving prostitutes that are commonly used to rob foreign visitors. Guests should be especially wary of pairs of overly enthusiastic girls who encourage you to take both of them home with you. Many drunken and drugged tourists can vouch for the fact that such things really are too good to be true.

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