Sexual Exploitation of Children: What is the Situation in Ukraine?


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has presented the results of the study Comprehensive Assessment of Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution and Pornography in Ukraine. This study, which was conducted by the Centre for Social Expertise of the Institute of Sociology National Academy of Science of Ukraine (ISNASU), included an analysis of current situation in this area and measured the magnitude of THE worst varieties of child abuse in Ukraine.
According to this research, the major target population groups that run the highest risk of being forced into prostitution, pornography and child trafficking are homeless, neglected children; children from large, poorly functioning, single-parent and poor families; children aged 13 or older.

These results are based on interviews of more than 1,000 14- to 18-year old children in vulnerable living situations. The research revealed that 11 per cent of them had showed their nude body; 10.4 per cent had let others touch their nude parts (“feel them up”); 7.8 per cent had had sex for a fee; 3.2 per cent had consented to be photographed or shot in a film while being nude.

“Our research is the first attempt in Ukraine to get a real picture of cases in which children’s rights to be protected from abuse and exploitation , were violated. What we saw is that the problem is complex and of sufficiently large scale that it requires immediate actions to be taken by authorities, society and the general public,” said the UNICEF representative in Ukraine, Yukie Mokuo, during the presentation. “Increasing level of awareness, responsible parenting, and state support of vulnerable families: these are the first steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of Ukrainian children,” added Ms. Mokuo.

In addition to interviews with children, the researchers also did in-depth interviews with parents whose children had been sexually abused, and analysed life stories of children who had experienced sexual abuse.

“The research will provide crucial information to all those whose profession is related to protection of children’s rights in Ukraine. The study will also be of great benefit for decision-makers, state authorities, parents, service providers, young people, non-profit organizations and mass media representatives, said Yuriy Privalov, PhD, Director of the Centre for Social Expertise of the ISNASU.

According to this study, common causes of the high rate of exploitation of children [expansive growth]in Ukraine are the following:

The low income of many families that forces children into prostitution and pornography;

The loss of the family’s leading role in a child’s upbringing; the unpreparedness of teachers/educators/ social workers to discuss “touchy” issues in language that is comprehensible to children;

Inadequacy of legal initiatives; drawbacks of legislation; perfunctory attitude to this problem by executive government agencies.

“Among the major obstacles that we encountered on the path of thwarting this exploitation of children, the two most prominent were insufficient awareness of the public with regard to the extent of these problems, and low confidence among affected children in the institutions whose job is to protect their rights,” emphasized Lidia Amdzhadin, PhD (Sociology), an expert at the Centre for Social Expertise of the ISNASU.

According to in-depth interviews with parents whose children were victims of sexual abuse, the study revealed the following causes:

Absence of investments from the government as a whole and from each individual family in particular into the system of family values; parents’ lack of responsibility in raising their children. 

Insufficient awareness of the public regarding this problem.

Deficiency of preventive measures in the society and in education institutions in particular; mass media’s approach of sensationalism and intimidation when  reporting about children forced into prostitution, the pornographic industry or who are trafficked.

Inadequacies of existing legislation; lack of efficient coordination among all institutions that are engaged in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children.

The interviews of vulnerable children revealed:

Only 34.4 per cent of all interviewees had both parents; only 11.7 per cent of them lived with both parents during the last three months.

Most children (58.4 per cent) described their family as very poor, as frequently having no cash and food, which caused the children to go hungry, beg and sometimes lapse into stealing.

31.8 per cent of these children did not attend school. The main excuse cited was their unwillingness to take classes and lack of interest (40.5 per cent); while 14.8 per cent said they were forced to work instead of studying; 11.2 per cent preferred working to school; and 8.9 per cent were not allowed to attend studies by their parents.

The most important issues for these children were those related to money and child-support (31.2 per cent). These were followed by the issue of their relations with parents.

Some of the interviewed children acknowledged receiving sexually-tainted proposals, as well as acknowleged some acceptance of such offers.  In particular, 13.5 per cent said they were asked to to show their nude body (body parts); 10 per cent - to let someone touch to their nude body parts (touch them up); 8.5 per cent – to make sex for money or some commodities or services; and 3.6 per cent - to be  photographed or shot in a film while being nude.

There were three main categories of people who proposed sex came to these children: 1) grown-up relatives, neighbours or acquaintances; 2) unknown men and women in different places (at the market, railway or bus station, in the street, on the road, at the bus stop, inside buildings); 3) friends, peers or other older students.


For further information or to receive the copies of this report please contact:
Andriy Haidamashenko, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Ukraine.  
Tel.: 044 254 24 50. E-mail:  

Anna Pisotska, Center for Social Expertiese.
Tel.: (044) 253 14 01; fax: (044) 253 23 53; 097 948 46 95; e-mail: ; .


Additional information
The report Comprehensive Assessment of Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution and Pornography in Ukraine was developed on the basis of results and findings achieved in four studies that were conducted by UNICEF and Centre for Social Expertise of the NAS of Ukraine (ISNASU) with support from the Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport of Ukraine in 2009

Expert evaluation reviews (58 experts).

In-depth interviews with parents whose children suffered from sexual abuse (40 parents).

Analysis of life stories narrated by children who were victims of sexual abuse (40 children).

Interviews with “children from street” (including those who live on the street along with their parents and those who live on their own; how they work on the street to support their families); children from dysfunctional families; orphans and children without parental care. A standardized interview was used to interview 1,000 children in various Ukrainian regions. The respondents’ selection method was of mixed type: target and random selection.

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