Problems of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Ukraine
In Ukraine this year alone, 867 people have been estimated to face sexual exploitation, forced labor and other forms of modern-day slavery. 85 of the victims are children, Ukraine's Social Policy Ministry says. Victims can receive financial aid, as well as psychological assistance from the Government
25 million people worldwide are affected by human trafficking. That is roughly 3 times the population of New York City. In Ukraine — this year alone, the National Police opened 217 criminal proceedings, connected to modern-day slavery.
Most often, Ukrainians find themselves in trouble — while seeking employment in Russia, Poland, and Turkey.
“I was promised 500 dollars a month. But I did not make anything,” victim of human trafficking Iryna Puzyr says. Iryna Puzyr’s home in the occupied Donetsk was badly damaged in the shelling. Looking to buy a new flat, she became a sports entertainer at a hotel in Turkey.
“In the morning we had gymnastics and step aerobics. In the afternoon water polo, football and volleyball. We complained that we worked 15 hours a day and did not get enough sleep. They said: ‘You must work even harder. You must work like a dog’,” Puzyr said.
Iryna did not suffer physical violence, but she faced psychological abuse. Hotel managers even tried to isolate her from relatives.
“We were taken to some village. We had no idea, where it was. We were not allowed to connect to WiFi so that we could not get in touch with our families. But I got a password under false pretenses and contacted my mom. Then she phoned the Embassy,” she said.
This is what helped Iryna return home after two weeks in Turkey.
“Iryna’s case is a classic example of labor exploitation,” Director of Legal and Social Assistance Department ‘La Strada — Ukraine’ NGO, Maryna Lehenka, said.
Maryna Lehenka, who provides legal assistance to Iryna, says that her labor contract did not contain all of the essential details. This should have raised suspicions for potential employees.
“A contract should contain very clear details about working hours and conditions, settlement and payment,” Lehenka said.
Some employers provide unrealistic guidelines for future employees to follow. They may even prove to be illegal.
“If an employer says: ‘You will work with a tourist visa for a month, and then we will change it to a work visa’ — don’t agree. If a person goes abroad with a tourist visa, it can not be changed to a work visa. And don’t give your passport to anyone. Ever!” Lehenka said.
If you find yourself in trouble and realize that your phone is being tapped, use a code word while calling your family. This phrase should be thought of in advance.
“For example: ‘How’s our cat Vasia?’ You don’t have cat Vasia. But this phrase would indicate to your relatives that you are in danger,” she said.
One more “code” used to discreetly ask for help is putting a spoon in underwear — before going through metal detectors at airport security. Girls who fear they are being taken abroad for forced marriage — can use this trick to escape from traffickers.