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Naked ambition: Ukrainian topless protests go global

Published time: November 28, 2011 07:32
Edited time: August 11, 2014 18:16
Activists from Ukraine's scandalous FEMEN group holds a banner reading "woman is not a commodity" as they stage a topless protest in Zurich (AFP Photo / Sebastien Bozon)

Activists from Ukraine's scandalous FEMEN group holds a banner reading "woman is not a commodity" as they stage a topless protest in Zurich (AFP Photo / Sebastien Bozon)

A naked woman in a city's central square is bound to attract attention, which is exactly what Ukraine’s Femen group is hoping for with a series of high-profile demonstrations against the abuse of women's rights which has made the news across Europe.

­And as RT found out, the Ukrainian feminists are ready to conquer new horizons.

On a chilly morning in Kiev, half-naked women in racing outfits drink champagne and chant slogans. This is how the Femen movement celebrated the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi. Several days prior to that, Femen were in Rome, lending their support for the anti-Berlusconi protests.

“We had staged a lot of protests against Berlusconi and his sexual adventures here in Kiev. And we are really happy his political career has finished,” activist Aleksandra Shevchenko told RT.

“But we came to the Italian embassy not only to celebrate, but to say that he needs to go on trial for his sexual crimes,” Femen member Inna Shevchenko added.

For more than a week, Ukraine’s topless protesters have been making themselves heard across Europe on a road trip dedicated to drawing attention to the sexual exploitation of women.

While in Rome, one of their activists even made a revealing protest against injustice towards women in the Catholic Church at the Vatican, right in front of the Pope. Before that, they hit Paris, storming the residence of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“Women from Italy came to us in Switzerland and said: ‘We know that you’re coming to Rome and will be staging protests against Berlusconi and the Pope. Thank you,’ they said, ‘for sharing our problems,’” Alexandra Shevchenko continued.

Their wild bra-free rallies in Ukraine have been making international headlines for several years, from protesting against the alarming rate of prostitution, especially with the upcoming Euro 2012 football tournament, to exposing flaws in Ukraine’s politics. Now they are looking even further afield.

“We understood that classic feminism no longer works,” Inna Shevchenko said. “It is, if you excuse me, impotent. But what we do brings the desired effect. That’s why not only Ukraine needs us, but Europe as well. We are planning to take over the world.”

The Femen movement has been well-received at home in Ukraine and in Europe, and now its members are planning to extend their reach even further.

“We receive lots of letters telling us to continue fighting religious injustice towards women, especially in Muslim states. That’s where we want to develop,” Alexandra Shevchenko told RT. “We are even ready to go to Iran or any other Islamic state to stage our topless protests, knowing all risks it could entail for us.”

In Ukraine alone, Femen has garnered tens of thousands of supporters. The network has taken root in Europe and now stretches as far as the United States. But with sex-tourism, prostitution, and the ‘mail-order bride’ industry still plaguing Ukrainian society, Femen say they still have a lot demons to fight at home.