Justice Ministry remains deaf to NGOs’ comments on anti-discrimination legislation
Human rights activists say that discrimination is a real problem in Ukraine which can affect anybody regardless of gender, age or state of health. As reported, the need to overcome it was pointed out by 40 UN member states during the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in October 2012. Specialists in this field as well as people who have encountered discrimination in their own lives discussed the situation recently in Kyiv.
There are no official statistics on cases of discrimination in Ukraine and therefore officials often claim that they don’t know of such a problem or understate the scale of it. All information about the number of victims is information gathered by civic organizations. However they can also not see the full picture, since people who’ve come up against discrimination often in fact try to hide this since there are simply no mechanisms of defence against discrimination in Ukraine.
Iryna Fedorovych, one of the coordinators of the Anti-Discrimination Coalition, says that the law passed in October 2012 On the Principles of Avoiding and Countering Discrimination needs radical change. It was drawn up hastily and in order to fulfil the country’s foreign obligations. It doesn’t contain any real mechanisms against discrimination and doesn’t establish procedure for appealing against acts of discrimination. This means, she says, that any person who has been unfairly treated has no possibilities for standing up for their rights and getting compensation.
The law has not only been criticized by Ukrainian experts – the Council of Europe and European Commission also gave negative assessments.
At the beginning of October the Justice Ministry set to drawing up a package of amendments to the Law and to other legislative acts. Unfortunately for the second time comments from civic organizations were not taken into account.
Roman Romanov, Director of the Rule of Law Programme for the International Renaissance Foundation stresses that officials need to have specific cases of discrimination brought to their attention so that they will draw up legislation to protect them. Such cases are not isolated and illustrate the situation throughout the country.
Social psychologist Viktor Pushkar considers the most widespread form of discrimination in Ukraine to be ageism. Age restrictions continue to be widespread when taking people on. He says that the new employment law envisages largely cosmetic measures aimed at concealing the problems instead of addressing them properly.
Nor is it only Ukrainian citizens who suffer from discrimination, with discrimination on nationality grounds being common.
Maxim Butkevych, one of the coordinators of the Without Borders Project says that the situation is exacerbated by the fact that foreign nationals often face multiple forms of discrimination with their foreign citizenship and legal status in Ukraine; their state of health in connection with being foreign; skin colour or level of language can all cause a cumulative effect. He points out that refugees, asylum seekers and foreign students in Ukraine can say a lot about this.
The UN Universal Periodic Review is procedure during which each country must report on how it is observing human rights and receive a critical assessment of its report. The Periodic Reviews are once every four or five years. Human rights organizations also use the opportunity to present their shadow reports. Ukraine’s first Periodic Review was in 2008.