Ukraine: Four news that affect gender equality

Position of women in the Armed Forces of Ukraine; action near the Ukrainian Parliament; National Action Plan "Women, Peace and Security"; and anti-discriminatory examination of educational materials.

1. Ukrainian President signed a law to strengthen the position of women in the army

Currently, 24 897 female servicemen are serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but only 3068 women are in positions of officers.

On October 12, 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law, which guarantees equal rights and opportunities for women and men during military service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations. It is noted that the document will increase the level of legal protection of female servicemen, the number of women in the military service and in higher military positions.

In particular, the principle under which women conduct military service on an equal base with men includes equal access to positions and military ranks, as well as equal responsibility while performing military service duties. It is reported that the law abolishes unreasonable restrictions on the service of women in the military stock and the passage of military men and women.

Law No. 6109 on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men during military service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations was voted in Verkhovna Rada on September 6, 2018. President signed the Law on October 12, 2018.

2. "Power to Women, Women to the Parliament": action near the Ukrainian Parliament

On September 6, 2018, activists and representatives of public organizations from different regions of Ukraine, Ukrainian Women's Fund representatives among them, came to Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to uphold gender equality in representative bodies of the Ukrainian authorities as part of the electoral reform with the requirement to include a new electoral law a 50 percent gender quota.

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the adult population of Ukraine, they are minimally involved in the process of state leadership. The number of women in Ukrainian Parliament among the European countries is the lowest – only 12% (but the highest in the history of independent Ukraine). It averages less than 23%, and even lower than in a number of Muslim countries: Jordan (about 16%) and Egypt (15%). By the number of women in the Parliament, Ukraine stands next to countries such as Ghana, Guatemala and Chad.

That is why activists from all over Ukraine protested demanding the compulsory introduction of electoral law sanctions against those political forces that violate the quota principle of forming electoral lists.

For Ukraine, the issue of gender equality is not new. Four years ago, President Petro Poroshenko signed the economic part of the Association Agreement with the European Union. Among others, Ukraine has pledged to gradually bring its legislation and working conditions closer to EU standards and implement European labor law directives.

The consequence should be, in particular, equal opportunities for men and women and the elimination of discrimination in all forms.
Last year, the Ministry of Health declined the list of 450 types of work that women could not officially take before. Among them – oil and gas production, chemical production, work as a firefighter or a driver of freight transport. However, as noted in the Cabinet of Ministers report, the currently authorized women do not yet have jobs in mines.

A breakthrough has been a step towards equality for men and women in military affairs. So on August 24, 2018, at the 27th year of independence of Ukraine, for the first time women soldiers stepped with men-military along Khreshchatyk during the parade on the Independence Day.

3. Approval of the National Plan of Action for the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 "Women, Peace and Security" for the period up to 2020

On September 5, 2018 the Ukrainian government updated the National Action Plan to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 "Women, Peace, Security" for the period up to 2020, originally approved by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated February 24, 2016, No. 113.

1325 is the code name of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' complex of measures aimed at implementing the UN Security Council Resolution "Women, Peace and Security", which confirms the importance of women's participation and inclusion of a gender perspective in peace talks, humanitarian planning, peacekeeping and post-conflict processes, establishing peace and governance. The implementation of the "Women, Peace, Security" agenda is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' strategy of involving women in law enforcement and promoting women's leadership in the structures of the Ministry.

Implementation of the measures of the National Action Plan "Women, Peace and Security" for the period until 2020, approved by the Government, will be an important instrument for protection of women's rights in an armed conflict and for their active participation in peace-keeping processes. Combining the efforts of state authorities, local self-government, public associations and international organizations, representatives of socially responsible business, volunteers to provide timely assistance to victims of armed conflict will help minimize the consequences of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, as well as improve the security system and rehabilitation of victims of gender-based violence. In accordance with this Resolution, action plans have already been adopted in 50 countries; in 20 countries, such plans are being developed.

Changes to the Plan are due to the need to take into account Ukraine's first experience in implementing the resolution in a decentralized environment; implementation of the recommendations set forth in the final comments of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; clarification and definition of new plan executors.

Action Plan includes:
•      measures to improve the infrastructure and material conditions for the women's service;
•      strengthening of the component of combating the sexual violence associated with the conflict;
•      measures for the development of special courses and teaching aids for solving educational problems in emergencies;
•      expanding of training activities for actors implementing the Plan;
•      strengthening of the information component.

International organizations as well as key civil society organizations, Ukrainian Women Foundation among them, are actively involved into Plan’s implementation.

4. Ministry of Education & Science of Ukraine conducts anti-discriminatory examination of educational materials and has developed a Strategy for Implementation of the Gender Component in Education

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has developed the Strategy for the full implementation of the gender component in education "Education: Gender Dimension 2020". This document has already passed a public discussion, the necessary approvals and, after revision, will be submitted for approval by the Government.

Nowadays according to the Strategy, all the documents within the "New Ukrainian School" reform are subject to anti-discrimination expertise and are adjusted on the basis of the gender component. There is also compulsory examination of school textbooks, both those that are only submitted to the competition or are being prepared for printing, and those that were issued by the state since 2011.

Anti-discrimination expertise involves identifying and eliminating all the features that may lead to discrimination in accordance with the laws of Ukraine, in particular, Article 1 of the Law "On the Principles of Prevention and Counteraction of Discrimination in Ukraine".

Currently, 3 million children in Ukraine live in incomplete families, which is almost 40%. It is also about children who live exclusively with grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. This situation is particularly acute as some of children lost their parents as a result of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine.

Taking into account the above-mentioned facts, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine as a part of anti-discrimination expertise plans to exclude the word "parents" from school textbooks and to replace it by the word "relatives". Experts are also concerned about the layout of textbooks, where images are selected exclusively with a full family.

Besides, anti-discrimination expertise revealed the fact that the textbooks totally lacked the characters representing people with disabilities, and the elderly are portrayed as extremely weak. Today, 6% of Ukrainian population (about 2.5 million people), are people with disabilities. Children with special educational needs enroll in inclusive classes in schools. It was the anti-discrimination expertise that enabled people with disabilities to be included in the textbooks and made them part of the picture of the world that the school creates for children to change the image of the elderly.

Also AD expertise allowed the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) to exclude such words as "Negro", "Jews" and "Gypsies" from future textbooks.

The Strategy for the implementation of the gender component in education also envisages an institution of gender advisory and monitoring of the parity of women and men representation in the management of higher education institutions in Ukraine.

A special working group on gender issues and combating the discrimination in education is set under the Ministry of Education and Science and includes 25 leading specialists (candidates and doctors of sciences) representing various higher education institutions (in particular – pedagogical), Ukrainian NGOs, and relevant MES staff.

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