There has been an increase in men searching for Ukrainian escorts on Irish websites since the Russian invasion sparked an international refugee crisis.
Online search engines have also revealed a surge in searches relating to “Ukraine porn” and “Ukrainian women” in the week between March 6 and 12, reflecting a global problem of people seeking to use the crisis to exploit women and girls fleeing war.
One Irish escort site noted a 250% increase in searches on its website for Ukrainian escorts in the first two weeks of March, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
The site also recommended soliciting Ukrainian escorts rather than turning to pornography, claiming it’s “an ethical and most importantly consensual and healthy way to live out any war-inspired fantasy.”
Of the advertisements for Ukrainian escorts, the majority highlight that they are new to Ireland.
Barbara Condon, the chief executive of Ruhama, an organisation that works with women affected by prostitution and sexual exploitation, said the data about searches for Ukrainian escorts, and pornographic material relating to Ukrainian women, is concerning.
Ruhama has joined with Women’s Aid and the National Women’s Council of Ireland in the Beyond Exploitation campaign, which is calling on the Government to use its leadership at EU and UN levels to ensure that humanitarian aid for Ukraine is “gender-sensitive”.
The campaign is also seeking decisive action to combat exploitative practices and to support and protect women and children arriving in Ireland and the EU from war.
Ms Condon said: “We are deeply concerned about reports of online searches for Ukrainian women to provide sexual services and the risk of exploitation this creates to women and children fleeing the war.
"From our experience we see traffickers and pimps making a lot of money while women suffer severe trauma and hardship.”
Chief executive of Women’s Aid, Sarah Benson, said any “horrible, cynical ploy” to exploit women during one of the worst humanitarian conflicts in decades is completely reprehensible.
“It proves that it takes away any veneer that the sex trade would like to have because it proves that the actors within the sex trade — whether informal, or organised, or part of a criminal network — what they are doing is always looking for the vulnerable woman and how they can exploit.
and the UCD-based Sexual Exploitation Research Programme have both sent correspondence to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, to highlight concerns about the possibility of exploitation of women and children fleeing Ukraine.