Ukraine is currently experiencing serious political disorder. I think everyone has heard about this. Yet, the presidential elections are planned on 25 May. A new government will bring new challenges as well as new opportunities for collaboration.
The work of my organisation, LEGALIFE, involves lobbying and interacting with government institutions. I really hope that they will hear us and consider our needs, and that we can start a dialogue on issues that are related to sex work – specifically, the decriminalisation of sex work and the legalisation and recognition of commercial sex work. There are fears that the new government will criminalise the clients of sex workers; this would also affect sex workers themselves and sex work in general. Criminalisation of our work deprives us of our income and it stigmatises me and my colleagues. This will have negative consequences for our rights, health, and social status.
Right now, there is a lot going on in Ukraine – but it should be noted that, for the time being, neither my job as a sex workers’ rights activist nor my organisation’s activities seem to be affected. The government authorities are trying to work with non-governmental organisations and target groups. For example, we are now jointly developing a programme on HIV and tuberculosis.
Our organisation works regardless of what is happening in the country. At local levels, we collaborate with government agencies and authorities, like before. And we continue to interact with regional and city councils on HIV and tuberculosis, by participating in working groups for developing an HIV strategy for the period 2014-2016. Through this working group, we have started a dialogue with the police. This offers an opportunity to visit the police academy and carry out a joint training for police officers on HIV-related topics. We plan to include lessons that focus on human rights and the rights of sex workers, people who use drugs, and men who have sex with men.
Our organisation works regardless of what is happening in Ukraine
My dream is that sex workers are no longer treated as outcasts; that they are accepted as equal members of society and seen as regular employees. It would be wonderful when, one day, human rights are no longer only rights on paper, but are applied in real life.
My new daughter, who is nearly six months now, also motivates me to do my job as best as I can. I did not take maternity leave and started working as soon as we were discharged from the hospital. A week after she was born, I was at a conference in Kiev. My daughter stayed with her father, who really loves his little princess. I want my daughter to say ‘thank you’, not literally, but I hope she will appreciate the way in which I raise her, surrounded by love, care, and great people. I want her to be proud of me!