Forum on trafficking of women in Ukraine

A forum on the topic "Trafficking of Women in Ukraine: Governmental and Nongovernmental Responses" opened the CPRS's series of events. Notable among its participants were: Elizabeth Zolotukhina, Columbia University; Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, University of Saskatchewan; Kateryna Levchenko, La Strada, Ukraine; and John Winterdyk, Mount Royal University, and Julie Kaye, Ambrose University College, both of Calgary. Searching for effective public policy solutions was the task of a round table consisting of Linda Duncan, MP Edmonton-Strathcona, Olena Hankivsky, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C., and Tymofiy Hawrysh, Maple Leaf Alberta Project, Edmonton.

01 April 2013

4 April 2013-On 22 March 2013, a one-day forum on "Trafficking of Women in Ukraine: Governmental and Nongovernmental Responses" organized by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies was held at the University of Alberta. The aims of the forum were to explain why the trafficking of women is such a persistent problem in Ukraine, to heighten public and academic interest in it, and to encourage greater efforts by the Canadian and Ukrainian governments, as well as appropriate nongovernmental organizations, in combating it.

This high-profile international forum featured participants from Canada, the United States, and Ukraine, including parliamentarians, academics, and members of various women's organizations. Indicating that more than 110,000 Ukrainian citizens have been trafficked from Ukraine since 1991 (5,500 annually), Elizabeth Zolotukhina (Columbia University) argued that there is not only a failure to apply vaguely formulated laws and a lack of clear assessment metrics but also a lack of political will that may be a consequence of corruption, reluctance to tackle a problem of such huge scope, or indifference.

Speaking about the conceptually complex field of "trafficking" studies, Natalia Khanenko-Friesen (University of Saskatchewan) distinguished two approaches. Some analysts regard all those subjected to exploitation abroad as victims, while others consider that a trafficked individual should be recognized as a kind of a working migrant, an individual with her own sense of agency. The speaker suggested that it would be best to reconcile and combine the perspectives of both camps in order to combat trafficking and assist those who have been forced into it against their will.

Kateryna Levchenko, president of the International Women's Rights Centre "La Strada - Ukraine" and former deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament, spoke about government efforts to combat trafficking, referring to the law "On Combating Trafficking in Human Beings" (2011) and other official documents. She addressed a number of challenges, such as the lack of government funding for NGOs, lenient sentencing of traffickers, inadequate protection of victims, and lack of economic alternatives to unsafe migration; she also suggested a larger role for nongovernmental and international organizations in combating the problem.

Bringing a Canadian perspective to the issue, two criminologists, John Winterdyk (Mount Royal University, Calgary), and Julie Kaye (Ambrose University College, Calgary) suggested going outside the limited realm of the criminal justice system to develop cross-sector collaboration between government, non-government, and law-enforcement agencies so as to promote the formulation and implementation of appropriate localized protocols.

A highly productive round-table discussion featured Linda Duncan (MP Edmonton-Strathcona), Joanna Harrington (Faculty of Law, University of Alberta), Olena Hankivsky (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby), and Tymofiy Hawrysh (Maple Leaf Alberta Project, Edmonton). Greetings were delivered by representatives of the Canadian and Ukrainian governments, the Manitoba MP Joy Smith and the ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko.

The forum concluded with a book launch of the latest study in the field, Gender, Politics, and Society in Ukraine, edited by Olena Hankivsky and Anastasiya Salnykova (University of Toronto Press, 2012). This collection of essays by leading Western and Ukrainian scholars examines how political, social, and economic transitions in post-communist Ukraine are transforming gender roles and relations there.

As noted by Heather Zwicker, vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts, the forum was a major event showcasing the interdisciplinary approach to scholarship at the faculty. The director of CIUS, Dr. Volodymyr Kravchenko, emphasized the importance of this approach for future CIUS projects intended to present different perspectives on current issues and offer practical solutions.

The event was supported by the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts; the Department of Political Science; the Department of History and Classics; and the Stasiuk Program for the Study of Contemporary Ukraine at CIUS. It was also well attended by the community and supported by the Ukrainian Professional and Business Association of Edmonton; the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada, Lesia Ukrainka Branch, St. Elia's Parish; the Ukrainian Senior Citizens' Club of Marko Boyeslav; the Alberta Ukrainian Self-Reliance League; the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada, St. John's Cathedral Branch; St. Mary's Ladies Branch, St. George's Parish; the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League of Canada (Alberta Branch); and Yaroslava and Lada Hirnyj (Toronto).