Hadar Gil-Ad
Hadar Gil-Ad
A Ukrainian refugee with her young child at the Ukraine-Poland border

Israel must protect vulnerable Ukrainian refugees from sex trade

Opinion: While millions of Ukrainian women were forced to flee their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs, some wish to exploit their misfortunes to turn a profit; police must ensure this phenomenon doesn't rear its ugly head here too

Hadar Gil-Ad |
Published: 03.18.22, 23:31
Three million people have already been forced to flee Ukraine since the start of the war last month, most of them women and children who found themselves left with little more than the clothes on their backs, homeless, hungry and with no prospects for an income to sustain them.
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  • There is growing concern that these dire conditions may serve to feed human trafficking rings.
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    פליטים בגבול פולין-אוקראינה
    פליטים בגבול פולין-אוקראינה
    A Ukrainian refugee with her young child at the Ukraine-Poland border
    (Photo: Gil Nechushtan)
    As Ukrainian men are barred from leaving with their families and are made to stay behind and fight the Russian invasion, millions of women are huddling at the borders in distress and destitution.
    History has taught us that crime syndicates use women's vulnerable situation to force them into impossible situations in order to survive. Past studies have shown that displacement increased the risk of falling prey to such acts.
    Recent reporting from Europe says efforts were being made to prevent history from repeating itself, including awareness campaigns and mass deployment of border guards.
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    פליטה אוקראינית והחתול שלה בגבול סלובקיה
    פליטה אוקראינית והחתול שלה בגבול סלובקיה
    A young Ukrainian refugee at the border with Slovakia
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Porn sites have seen an increase in searches for Ukrainian women and the web is full of ads inviting refugees to work in prostitution in exchange for material assistance, namely shelter. Yes, in Israel too.
    It is inconceivable that Ukrainian refugees that are facing great pain, loss and poverty must also defend themselves from those who see them as fair game and wish to exploit their misfortunes to turn a profit.
    These criminals take advantage of their rumbling bellies and anxiety for the future of their children. They use the fact that many of them have nowhere to turn to after their lives have been so horribly disrupted and offer them a "safe haven" and the prospect of a better life.
    The horrors of war do not just boil down to bombs and combat. The war in Ukraine has also destroyed the country's labor market, and while the men are off fighting on the battlefield, many women are left without a source of income while food prices only keep soaring.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בתחנת הרכבת של ורשה
    פליטים מאוקראינה בתחנת הרכבת של ורשה
    A Ukrainian woman and her children sleep on the floor of a train station in Poland
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The outcome is destructive: Alongside mounting testimonies of attempts to traffic women at the borders, reports of abuse of women inside Ukraine are also beginning to pile up, with advocacy groups within the country estimating that the number of women who had to turn to prostitution over the three weeks of fighting has swelled significantly and that women became more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
    Thousands of refugees have already arrived in Israel since the outset of the war and there is growing concern that this phenomenon may rear its ugly head here as well.
    Enforcement of Israel's anti-prostitution laws is lax at best, but as the government is bracing to tackle any such violations, all we can hope for is that the police will do everything to prevent these women from being harmed and exploited on Israeli soil.
    In many ways, war often helps to preserve the patriarchy and further widens gender gaps that enable men to abuse women. In this needless war, women are left to fend for themselves and their fate is so often decided by others.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בנתב"ג
    פליטים מאוקראינה בנתב"ג
    Ukrainian refugees arrive in Israel
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    We cannot let sexual violence in 2022 continue being used by men as a weapon against women in times of war and in general.
    We cannot let men take advantage of the human tragedy unfolding before our eyes and abuse women's bodies. These are war crimes too.
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