Topless Women’s Rights Activist Takes the Euro Football Cup

The Euro 2012 football trophy sat on display in Kiev’s Independence Square this past Saturday as hundreds of tourists and enthusiasts lined up to have their photograph taken with the top prize. The trophy will be awarded on July 1 after a month-long tournament between Europe’s best teams. The championship will be co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland.

Yulia Kovpachik, a 23-year-old activist with the women’s rights group FEMEN, stepped up to the trophy just like any other visitor to the trophy on Saturday. According to the Moscow Times, “she then pulled down her red T-shirt to reveal the words “[expletive] Euro 2012″ scrawled on her torso. As she grabbed hold of the cup with both hands, she was seized by security guards, who appeared to have had advanced warning of the protest.”

Kovpachik’s protest was aimed at the sex industry in Ukraine. FEMEN leaders fear that the Euro 2012 games, many of them set to take place in Ukraine, will fuel this industry and make “a bordello out of Ukraine.” Organizers of the games have stated that they are aware of the issues regarding sex exploitation and are currently taking steps to slow these operations during the football matches.

Ukraine has been under international scrutiny regarding women’s rights in recent weeks with the hunger strike of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently imprisoned for abuse of power. She started her hunger strike after stating that prison guards had used excessive force on her, leaving bruises on her arm and torso.

Many European Union leaders, including Angela Merkel, are threatening to boycott matches set to take place in Ukraine in protest to Tymoshenko’s treatment in prison and Ukrainian officials’ refusals to allow her to take treatment overseas, according to the Guardian.

A summit of Eastern European leaders, set to take place in Yalta last week, was also cancelled when 13 of 20 heads of state refused to appear at the meeting in protest of Tymoshenko’s treatment. Tymoshenko is currently in the hospital recovering from the 20 day hunger strike that prompted so much media scrutiny.

Tymoshenko has been a central icon in calls for democratic processes, leading the Orange Revolution in 2004, before coming to power as the head of government. Yulia Kovpachik’s activist group, FEMEN, has also been known to stage topless demonstrations against abuses of power over recent months. The group of women protested rigged parliamentary elections in Russia this past December. FEMEN has staged topless protests for a number of issues, but especially in response to social abuse and the exploitation of women.

The young Kovpachik was released but must appear in court on Monday. The maximum penalty is 800 hryvnias ($100) and 15 days in prison. It appears that Ukraine’s unsettled position will continue to garner attention in the weeks leading up to the matches.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y5 years ago

Context: In spite of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has fallen back under Moscow's domination. Its new President is Putin's lap dog and an echo chamber for orthodox politics. Its former, freely elected President is in jail for basically no good reason, and its first freely democratic President was poisoned by Russian agents.

You have to see these Fremen protests in that light. This is not just 'streaking' or hooliganism, but a very serious protest movement against a terribly unjust rule. Ukraine had a few years of true democracy. They badly want it back.

Respect these ladies and their supporters. What they are doing is brave and very dangerous. Many Ukrainians have 'disappeared' for this kind of stuff.

Walker Bennett
Walker Bennett5 years ago

When university student Gwen Jacob removed her top to cool off on a sweltering summer day in July 1991, she unwittingly spearheaded a movement to give all women in Ontario the legal right to expose their breasts — though most still choose not to.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Jacob being charged with committing an indecent act in Guelph, Ont., after walking home with her top off in 33 C weather.

Police had acted on a complaint from a mother who was concerned after her young children had seen Jacob walking topless.

At the time, the 19-year-old Jacob said she got the idea to take off her top after watching a group of shirtless men playing sports. By removing her top, she drew attention to the double-standard in law that deemed it acceptable for men, but not women, to go bare-chested.

Jacob took the case all the way up to the Ontario Supreme Court and won.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago


s. r.
p. q5 years ago

con't again:

i'm certainly not stating that nudity is prerequisite. but, in my opinion, a woman who takes off her shirt and will not be cowed or intimidated or ASHAMED--she commands my respect and she will, sooner or later, command the respect of others (not everyone, but others). i have personally never taken off my shirt in public, but i definitely salute those who do.

for your perusal:

i am truly sorry that this message is brusque, but my patience has worn thin on this topic. i'm demoralized by the pervasiveness of these damned assumptions.

s. r.
p. q5 years ago


a collective lie in our society, but still a lie. there are cultures who have never invested in this lie, as there are also cultures who never saw anything wrong with going bare-breasted until the christian missionaries came around and informed them that they were being immodest. the christian missionaries have hit up a lot of territory, sadly. there have even been cultures which sexualized the male body, not the female's. in ancient greece it was all about the phallus, not the breast. in any case, i personally believe that any woman who blindly buys into our culture's collective beliefs and codes is masochistically diminishing herself. every person has a right to diminish him/herself, but i would personally prefer if people didn't contribute to the diminishment of women in general by stating that women's bodies equal sex. i AM going to give those people (including you) a hard time. women should be able to "sexualize" their own bodies as they see fit, instead of "being sexualized" by the culture they happen to live in.

progress, in my opinion, is about changing assumptions. you know, like, gay=profligate, black=lazy, asian=bad driver, latino=illegal, female body=sex, female brain=dumb. one of the ways people can change assumptions is by flat-out going against them. if women want to stop being diminished, they're going to have to take back their bodies and COMMAND respect. they can do this in any number of ways; i'm certainly not stating that nudity is

s. r.
p. q5 years ago

mandi, no. i am competently literate, and i heard you the first time. i am aware that you do not like the exploitation of women. i read your statement, parsed it, and filed it away in my brain. i just personally take offense at your assumptions about the female body. i think they are naive at best, deleterious at worst.

just because some men (humans, actually) are "excited" by a breast does not mean, once again, that a woman's body parts equal "sex." men (humans, actually) can be titillated by ankles, shoes, necks, thighs, language, makeup, money, power, helplessness, or whatever (these are called fetishes). a woman has a right to own her body, a right to define the meaning of her body, and a right to make political statements with it as she sees fit. the only Truth here is that a body is a body; it is not SEX. it is, rather, that which should be "taken back" from those who would delineate it as such--much as gay people have endeavored to take back the word "fag," or black people the word "nigger." women's bodies have been codified, appropriated and defined by a certain hegemony, and have been used via capitalistic, propagandistic and religious means for purposes which are, to say the least, less than noble. there are organizations and corporations which are heavily invested in the fallacy that a woman's body should be equated with sex, and it leads to large-busted women selling you beer via your television set. it's a lie. a collective lie in our society, but

Arild Warud
Arild G5 years ago


Mandi A.
Amanda A5 years ago

Oops! That's "defensive" ... Not "offensive" :)

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Mandi A.
Amanda A5 years ago

...and just In case you didn't hear me right the firs time, I agree with the movement. I hate seeing women exploited. I hope that they raise awareness by any means necessary.. Don't become offensive, we're on the same team!