Speaking to local media, Leshchenko, a member of the Poroshenko Bloc parliamentary faction, said that criminalizing prostitution means "waging a war against human nature."
Accordingly, he suggested, "its legalization would guarantee social protection for the working population, physical safety and money into the budget. Many countries also use it as tourist bait. Ukrainians should not be more foolish than these countries."
Prostitution is officially illegal in Ukraine, but the problem has largely been ignored by the government for decades. Those caught providing sexual services are charged an administrative fine, while pimping officially remains punishable under the country's criminal code.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, sex tourism to Ukraine has attracted large numbers of foreign tourists, with Ukrainian girls forced to sell their bodies for hard currency amid limited economic opportunities and the degradation of social norms. According to statistics from 2011 by the Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies, an estimated 50,000 women were working as prostitutes in the country's tourist cities, every sixth of them a minor.
The situation has only been exacerbated since the 2014 Maidan coup d'état, with poor economic prospects driving a new generation of young women to the trade. Last October, Ukrainian lawmaker Anton Gerashchenko proposed a referendum on legalizing prostitution. A month earlier, the Rada registered a draft law 'On the regulation of prostitution and the activities of sex establishments', aimed at removing the criminal element from the equation. Leshchenko supported the measure.