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Kiev’s ambassador to Sweden incensed by prostitution joke

A Swedish journalist suggested that Ukrainian women stand out at brothels during a satirical show about immigrants

Kiev’s envoy to Stockholm was infuriated by a talk show which was aired by the public broadcaster SVT last week in which a journalist, Elaf Ali, poked fun of Ukrainian prostitutes. Ali responded by suggesting that Ukrainians should get thicker skin.

Andrey Plakhotnyuk said Ali’s remarks were “deeply offensive and completely unacceptable.” He demanded a public apology, both from her and SVT, venting his anger in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday.

The condemnation was over the premier episode of an immigration-themed satirical show, where Ali was one of the guests. Host Ahmed Berhan was testing participants’ knowledge of migrant communities in Sweden.

Ali’s joke came in response to a question about which country’s nationals received the most residency permits in Sweden in 2022. That year, hostilities between Moscow and Kiev triggered a mass exodus of Ukrainians, both into Russia and the European Union.

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The journalist mused that since many Ukrainians are blonde and blue-eyed, the influx was hardly noticeable in the Nordic nation, except in brothels. Most people who claimed asylum in Sweden in the past decade come from the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq (Ali’s home country), Iran and Afghanistan, as well as Somalia in Africa, according to national statistics.

The journalist responded to criticisms with a short statement, noting that of the three targets of her jokes during the show, who were an imam living in the Swedish city of Malmo, Ukrainians and Somalis, only the Africans didn’t attack her later online. They may have not watched the episode, she added.

Ali also shared a post defending herself, which explained the joke: “We are more willing to open our country to Ukrainian refugees than to others fleeing from war, but at the same time … we treat them as badly as others.”

SVT said disciplinary action against the journalist was out of the question, since her speech was protected by Swedish law. The show is meant to satirize stereotypes about ethnicity and culture in a way that is “on the fringe of what is socially acceptable,” editor Christina Hill said.

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Stockholm pioneered a scheme in 1999, under which prostitution is legal, but the purchase of sex is criminalized. Women selling sex are mostly foreigners, according to the national agency which is tasked with tackling prostitution and human trafficking. Sweden’s policy is that prostitution is always a form of exploitation and should not be regarded as a profession.

March 18, 2024 at 03:57PM

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