Ukraine's Topless Protesters Gain Fame

KIEV, Ukraine -- They have shed their shirts to promote women's rights, to support an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery and murder, and, most brazenly, to protest a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The bare-breasted young women of Femen, about 300 strong, are becoming a fixture in Ukrainian politics. The group, formed about two years ago by Kiev university students, says its main aim is to improve the lot of women in Ukraine's male-dominated, post-Soviet society.

"We want to show that our women have a demeaning role in our society. Their place is seen as in the kitchen or in bed," Alexandra Shevchenko, a 22-year-old economics student who regularly plays a leading role in topless protests, told Reuters.

Femen's initial targets were prostitution and discrimination against women. It has branched out to tax policy, freedom of speech and, as seen with Putin's visit last month, foreign affairs. "We won't sleep with Kremlin midgets" read one of the placards.

The group has become so popular that founder Anna Hutsul, 26, plans to launch a political party and run for parliament.

"If sexuality is used to sell cars and cookies, why not use it for social and political projects," Hutsul tells the Associated Press. "Sometimes you need to show your breasts for ideological reasons."

Source: OnDeadline