Ireland’s largest escort site has offered men the chance to live out their “war-inspired fantasies” with Ukrainian women, a webinar announced on Thursday.
Escorts Ireland has reported a 250% increase in interest in Ukrainian women, said Valiant Richey of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Mr Richey, a former US prosecutor, told the Beyond Exploitation webinar that war can be exploited by human traffickers and that Europe has already seen an increase in online searches for the purchase of services. sex to Ukrainian women.
“In some countries, the peak [in online searches for buying sex from Ukrainian women] was up to 600%…there was immediate interest in exploiting them,” he said.
A recent operation in Sweden proved that this trend translates into real life, Richey said. Of 38 buyers who were arrested, 30 of them were trying to access Ukrainian women specifically.
Mr. Richey, the OSCE’s anti-trafficking co-ordinator, said the demand for sexual services drives trafficking. “Too often, efforts focus solely on identifying victims or prosecuting traffickers…if we don’t meet the demand, the problem will never end.”
He called for more awareness and education campaigns within schools. He noted that social media was used to advertise prostitution and that targeted advertisements on websites explaining the evils of human trafficking could be used to counter this.
Olena Zaitseva, a lawyer at the Kyiv Center for Democracy and an expert on sexual exploitation, said the Irish government and wider civil society needed to understand Ukrainian culture when it comes to gender-based violence.
“Many Ukrainians have a low level of trust in law enforcement, including the police and state bodies…they don’t see the police as helpful.”
She gave the example of how a friend of hers in Ukraine called the police when she witnessed an incident of domestic violence in public. The police told her that only the victim should call them and that she risked a fine if she tried to intervene like that again.
She also said there was a high level of victim-blaming among the police, judges and Ukrainian society. “They will ask the victim why she was there, what she was wearing.”
She said it was important for Ukrainians in Ireland to feel comfortable reporting crimes, and that there should be a variety of supports available to them.
Newcomers may not know the English language, local laws or the realities of the sex industry, and therefore could be vulnerable to exploitation, Ms Zaitseva said.
She said it was also important to protect them from messages that prostitution is just “normal work” and a way to make money.
Beyond Exploitation is a civil society campaign to end sexual exploitation, led by the National Women’s Council, Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
Ukrainian refugees can find information on trafficking at safewomen.com.ua