Provocative women’s movement Femen has decried a decision by the Justice Ministry refusing to grant it official status as a nongovernmental organization.
Femen activists – whose topless protests on a range of themes in Ukraine and abroad have brought arrests and international attention – said they wanted to register their group to put it on a stronger legal footing. But the Justice Ministry turned down the request, citing possible “infringement of rights of others,” according to a copy of a letter from the ministry posted on Femen’s blog on Jan. 16.
“The goal … of this association of women for the protection of women’s rights and against the discrimination of women in society may be perceived to violate public order and the freedom of other citizens,” the letter reads.
“The ministry did not register our movement due to an order from above,” said Anna Hutsol, Femen’s leader. “The authorities are not happy with us because we are their strongest critics.” She added that the group would reapply.
Officials at the Justice Ministry’s registration service could not immediately be reached for comment on Jan. 16.
Femen shot to global attention four years ago when it gathered a group of students to protest prostitution in Ukraine. Protests became increasingly wide-ranging – and topless – taking on local and foreign topics such as curbs on democratic liberties in Ukraine and Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving alone. The group also travelled abroad last year, including protests in Paris, against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Rome, against the “misogynist” policies of the Roman Catholic Church.
Femen says it is a feminist group fighting against discrimination and injustice in society. Critics accuse the movement of self-promotion and a lack of knowledge and focus on serious activism.
Femen activists are frequently detained and fined for public order offences. Hutsol said the group wanted to receive official registration in order to pay smaller fines.