Four young Ukrainian women braved sub-zero temperatures today to go topless and climb the balcony of the Indian envoy’s residence in Kiev with placards pronouncing “Ukraine is not a bordello” and “We are not prostitutes”.
The quartet from Femen, a group famous for topless protests against everything from sex tourism to Silvio Berlusconi’s peccadilloes, were protesting the alleged tightening of visa rules by the Indian mission in Kiev for Ukrainian women in the 15-40 age group.
The women cited an Indian newspaper report published last week as proof that the mission had branded all Ukrainian women in the 15-40 age group as prostitutes.
The report said the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had instructed its missions in the central Asian republics, along with Russia and Ukraine, to re-examine the visa applications of women aged between 15 and 40 and reject those in which their reasons for visiting India sounded unconvincing.
The report suggested it was being done to keep sex workers from these countries from entering India, particularly with elections in five states round the corner. Both the MEA and the Indian mission in Ukraine have since contested the claim.
A senior MEA official said the report was “weird, if not mischievous and misplaced”.
“No such instructions have been issued. Visa officials are continuing to use their judgement in the issuance of visas, but there is no discrimination,” the official said, adding such restrictions would make every man a potential terrorist and every woman a potential sex worker.
Officials in Delhi said the Indian ambassador to Ukraine, Rajiv K. Chander, was not at his residence when the four women from Femen arrived in Indian attire and stripped to their waists before using a ladder to reach the second-floor balcony.
The women tied a banner in English to the balcony that declared: “We are not prostitutes”. They also carried placards in English and Russian that said “Delhi, close your brothels” and “We demand apologies”.
Police detained the four women, said to be in their late teens and early twenties, after they climbed down from the balcony. Other protesters, all fully clothed, waved the Tricolour and knocked on the doors and windows of the ambassador’s residence until they were detained by guards and taken away by police.