In the face of international uproar, New Zealand radio station The Rock FM has plowed ahead and picked a winner in its “Win a Wife” contest. The winner gets to pick a woman from a Ukrainian matchmaking agency and travel to Ukraine in the hopes of marrying her–or, in the words of the radio station, “to woo a hot European lady.” On Monday February 28, that honor went to Greg, who has previously sought a relationship with a Ukrainian woman and unsuccessfully traveled to Ukraine to meet her.
On Tuesday, FEMEN, a Ukrainian feminist organization dedicated to fighting the culture of sex tourism, staged a protest outside Kiev’s marriage registration office. Nine members of FEMEN protested topless in the snow while wearing wedding veils. The women held signs which read “Ukraine is not a Brothel” and “Welcome to Hell.”
Traveling to Ukraine was once a difficult process, but in 2005, Ukraine dropped entry visa requirements for Americans or citizens of the European Union seeking to travel, and now more than 20 million people visit Ukraine every year. With the change in visa laws came an increase in sex tourism and trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of State, “Ukraine is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked transnationally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.” In 2007, the International Organization for Migration found that:
More Ukrainian men, women and children have been trafficked abroad and forced into indentured labor or prostitution than in any other Eastern European country since the Soviet collapse … Roughly 117,000 Ukrainians have been forced into exploitative situations in Europe, the Middle East and Russia since 1991 …
Image of protest from FEMEN.