FEMEN (Ukrainian: Фемен) is a feminist Ukrainian protest group based in Kiev and Paris, founded in 2008. The organization became internationally known for organizing controversial topless protests against sex tourists, religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social, national and international topics. In October 2012 the organization claimed it had about 40 activists in Ukraine, and another 100 who had joined their protests abroad, as well as tens of thousands of supporters via the social network Vkontakte.
The organisation describes itself as "fighting patriarchy in its three manifestations - sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion" and has stated that its goals are "to develop leadership, intellectual and moral qualities of young women in Ukraine" and "to build up the image of Ukraine, country with great opportunities for women". FEMEN activists have been regularly detained by police in response to their protests.
FEMEN has several international branches.
Anna Hutsol founded the FEMEN movement on 10 April 2008 after she became aware of sad stories of Ukrainian woman duped into going abroad and then taken advantage of sexually. Initially Femen gained attention by demonstrating in skimpy or erotic clothing, for example on 21 September 2008 in front of the Turkish embassy a dozen FEMEN members were dressed as sexy nurses with smudged makeup and high pink heels, however at the 24 August 2009 demonstration on Ukranian independence day Oksana Shachko went topless. Since this approach obtained such great publicity it rapidly became FEMEN's trademark approach. While most of the protests have been confined to bare breasts, in October 2010 Shachko exposed her buttocks outside a locked toilet in a demonstration to protest the lack of public toilets in Kiev, and four of the group members staged a similar protest in Kiev in February 2011.
FEMEN protest in Kiev during the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election
Since May 2011 a host of international news outlets have started to report about the organization's actions; this has sharply heightened FEMENs international profile.
From late 2011 the Ukranian FEMEN activists started to do more international protests. In December 2011 three FEMEN activists claimed that the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus had abducted and terrorized them after they staged topless protests in Minsk. On 8 April 2013 5 FEMEN members were able to "topless ambush" Russian President Vladimir Putin (accompanied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel) at the Hanover trade fair.
After Inna Shevchenko chopped down a wooden cross overlooking Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev on 17 August 2012, she claimed to have received several death threats and that her front door had been kicked in. Fearing arrest, she sought asylum in France and moved to Paris. There in September 2012 she established a training facility for activists for Femen in France.
Late July 2013 one of the ideologists of the FEMEN, Viktor Sviatsky and Hutsol where beaten up on the eve of a visit of Putin to Kiev to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus'. According to Hutsol those who attacked them “resemble those cooperating with secret services SBU and FSB”.