Zooming In

August 14, 2008

Ukrainian Women Protest Objectification, Dress as Prostitutes

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Indicting Chilean generals; Dutch internet "addiction"; and an outbreak in Uganda.

Michael Gluckstadt

Some of the most insightful writing from outside the US comes from local media. In this occasional feature, Gelf identifies noteworthy stories that haven't gotten much attention outside local borders.



In order to protest Ukraine's image abroad as a sex-tourism destination, young female students dressed up as prostitutes in a downtown Kiev public square. The demonstration, with over 50 participants, was organized by the women's rights group FEMEN, and featured eight protesting psuedo-prostitutes and a male ballet with dancers dressed as pimps.

Since visa restrictions were relaxed in 2005, the sex worker industry has flourished in Ukraine, and it has gained a reputation as Europe's bordello. "We take this issue very seriously," says FEMEN's leader Anna Hutsol. "We are pushing for legislation to forbid sex tourists from entering the country. We are sick of men looking at us like pieces of meat." Hutsol's demonstration featured attractive young women in several revealing outfits, with some wearing plunging necklines stuffed with fake million dollar bills and others simply clothed in underwear and high-heels. Not everyone is upset with Ukraine's image as Europe's breadbasket of sex work, though. The German proprietor of a Ukrainian escort service tells the Kyiv Post, "The girls here are tall and slim, and getting them into bed is easy. Moreover they are fun to party with."


While its political volatility has subsided to a degree, Uganda faces serious health concerns for its citizens. Hepatitis E is the latest in a string of deadly diseases that have hit the poverty-stricken country. A strain that first appeared in October 2007 has proven resistant to the best efforts of the World Health Organization and other government programs, infecting thousands and killing 106 people—25 in the last month alone. The virus is spread by the ingesting of fecal matter as a result of poor hygiene and living conditions, and so the government has enforced bylaws that mandate latrines in every home and ban the use of water pots and the consumption of kwete, a local brew that translates literally as "the thick." Uganda's frequent health issues, including epidemics of Ebola, meningitis, cholera, bubonic plague and yellow fever in the past few years, have contributed to the country's average life expectancy of 51.75—ranking it 191 out of 221 countries.



In Chile, three former generals were indicted in the 1992 assassination of a Pinochet loyalist-turned-whistleblower. Col. Gerardo Huber disappeared in January 1992, just a week after he had testified about an illegal arms deal between Chile's army—at the time controlled by Augusto Pinochet—and Croatia. Originally, the death had been labeled a suicide, but in 1995 it was termed a homicide, and the military courts put away a few low-level scapegoats. It wasn't until years later that a judge reopened the case, leading the way to this week's indictment of Generals Guillermo Letelier, Carlos Krumm and Víctor Lizárraga. "The military was very much trying to take care of its own," says Jason Snyder, a writer with the Santiago Times and Human Rights Law expert. "The military even has its own prison for retired officials prosecuted for human rights violations. Let's just say they are not roughing it." Does this indictment mean that Chile is finally settling the scores from the last remnants of the military junta? Snyder doesn’t think so. "The Chilean system and military autonomy makes prosecuting officers difficult," he tells Gelf. "Pinochet created an amnesty law that remains on the books. There needs to be a constitutional amendment to truly open the door for human rights convictions."



The Dutch newspaper Spits reports that one in five people in the Netherlands are addicted to the internet, according to a Dutch research firm. However, a prominent addiction consultant based in Amsterdam disagrees. "People are addicted to online gambling, online shopping and online sex," says Keith Bakker, director of Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants. "Internet is only the medium." And Bakker would know. In 2005, he set up the Netherlands' first video game detox center. Smith & Jones also treats so-called regular addictions, such as alcohol, gambling, and soft drugs in addition to gaming. Bakker told Australian newspaper The Age that the program first started when a patient being treated for cocaine addiction turned out to be gaming addict who used cocaine only to stay awake.

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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

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