Human rights in Ukraine 2011. XX. WOMEN’S RIGHTS: DOES THE SOCIETY NOTICE THEIR VIOLATION?
1. The sociopolitical context
In 2011, negative tendencies that formed in the previous year kept developing. They are, in particular, increase of manifestations of discrimination against women, the Government’s failure to fulfill even those few obligations that it undertook, absence of the mechanisms of protection against gender discrimination. An alarming fact is court prohibition of peaceful gatherings, which is in conflict with the Constitution in effect. Total control is being imposed on all participants of any peaceful actions, including video recording of the faces of all participants by police, as noticed by the female activists during peaceful actions and pickets.
The draft filed to Verkhovna Rada concerning activities of NGOs provides for prohibition of financing NGOs by international donors, which will render functioning of Ukrainian women’s organization and organizations for gender related issues completely impossible.
A serious problem of communication with the governmental bodies is their irresponsiveness to letters and petitions, in conflict with the Laws of Ukraine “On access to public information” and “On the citizens’ addresses.” For example, the majority of letters and petitions sent by the center “La Strada — Ukraine” were not answered.
In 2011, the manifestations of discrimination against women started to spread from verbal and political spheres to the legislation. It is quite alarming that it was the Ministry of Social Policy, the authorized governmental body for implementation of gender policy, that acts as an initiator of the legislative initiatives impairing the status of women.
2. The international context
Was also ambiguous. Since May till November of 2011, Ukraine presided in the Committee of the Ministers of the European Council. The main topic for presiding was protection of children’s and women’s rights. In May, the International Conference for protection of children’s rights was conducted in Kyiv. In the end of October the International conference for protection of the institutional mechanisms of gender equality implementation was held. Both conferences were notable for their non-transparent preparation by the Government, high levels of the participants from other countries and international organizations, and (especially the latter) for their formalism.
On November 7, 2011, Ukraine signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
On June 23, 2011, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council in Strasburg during the meeting of the Committee for equal opportunities of men and women, the special hearing took place dedicated to the condition of observance of women’s rights in Ukraine, which became a practical manifestation of concern about securing the rights of women by the Ukrainian government.
For the first time in all the years of monitoring over Ukraine’s compliance with the obligations undertaken by the state when it joined the European Council, which is performed by the monitoring group of the Parliamentary Assembly of European Council, in 2011 started to include the issues of women’s rights and gender equality, which also shows how the situation in this sphere became worse.
In 2010, Ukraine reported on observance of the UN Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (the sixth and seventh combined reports), and received the Final notes that are binding for the state; the information on their implementation must be submitted partly in 2012, and in full — in the next report in 2014. At the same time, analysis of the dynamics of social processes and governmental policy in 2011 calls for mostly pessimistic conclusions as to observance by the Ukrainian government of its undertaken obligations.
3. Elimination of institutional mechanisms
The biggest problem of 2011 was elimination, due to the administrative reform, of the institutional mechanism for implementation of gender equality and protection of women’s rights. The Presidential Decree as of December 9, 2010, disbanded the Ministry of Ukraine for Family, Youth and Sports, which was the authorized central executive body in the mentioned spheres. By the Presidential Decrees as of April 6, 2011, Provisions on the central bodies of executive power were approved, and some of the functions of the disbanded Ministry were transferred to the Ministry of Social Policy. But only since November 1, 2011, in the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, the Department for Family Policy started to function, which came into place of the Department for Family and Gender Policy. As one can see from the new name, gender issues are not a priority for the newly created department, and gender problems are limited to family issues, which considerably narrows their understanding. As a result, the State Program for facilitation of implementation of gender equality and the State Program for Support of Family for 2011–2015, developed as early as in 2010, were never approved.
Absence of a clear chain of command in this sphere had a negative impact on the activities of governmental structures on the local level, as well as on those of local self-government bodies, and is causing minimization of such activities. There is a serious threat of losing the facilities (regional gender resource centers) and human resources (officials responsible for gender policy who work locally, trained gender experts for work on the regional level) due to the administrative reform. Presently, according to the information from the local bodies of executive power, the departments responsible for implementation of the Law “On securing equal rights and opportunities”, receive directives from three different central executive governmental bodies — the Ministry for Social Policy, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and the State Service of Youth and Sports of Ukraine. Most activities were implemented by international and non-governmental organizations, on their initiative.
In addition to destruction of the institutional mechanism, in 2011 there were several manifestations of illogical administrative decisions in this sphere. For example, on December 7, 2011, during the Governmental meeting the assignment to develop the State Program for Support of Family was given not to the Ministry of Social Policy, which has the Department for Family Policy, but to the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sports.
The year 2011 was marked by further inaction of the Advisor of Prime Minister of Ukraine for gender issues. Implementation of such position in 2010 was a positive step in itself, yet in the conditions where the advisor has no opportunities to discuss issues with the supervisor and to work with his team for implementing the gender policy, existence of such position is just nominal, has no real sense, and is just misleading for the Ukrainian and international community. The Provisions on Advisor for gender issues do not exist. During 2011, the Advisor failed to provide any information on her activities in response to numerous inquiries from NGOs. There were no public speeches or petitions of the Advisor in response to numerous facts of women’s rights violations, except for one interview for the Deutche Welle radio station, which prevents this position from being perceived as a manifestation of institutionalization of the gender equality policy.
The draft Presidential Decree “On Strategy of combating discrimination in Ukraine” submitted for public evaluation caused additional misunderstandings because its implementation was supposed to completely overhaul the institutional mechanism, destroying the existing one without noticeable increase of its efficiency in general. In addition, the draft of the Strategy pays no attention to the issues of overcoming gender discrimination.
4. Draft amendments to the legislation: on the way
to promoting gender equality
On December 07, 2011, the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for the issues of human rights, national minorities and interethnic relations considered the draft of the Law of Ukraine “On amendment of some Laws of Ukraine (for securing equal rights and opportunities for women and men in employment sphere)”, registration No. 8487 as of 12.05.2011. The draft aims to amend a number of legislative acts of Ukraine with provisions regarding securing equal rights and opportunities of men and women. In particular, the laws that regulate the elections of the people’s deputies of Ukraine, elections of the deputies of Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils, and elections of village, town and city councils, have to be amended to include provisions that stipulate representation in every 5 candidates of both men and women at the level of at least 2 representatives. The Law of Ukraine “On securing equal rights and opportunities for women and men” should provide definitions for new terms “direct discrimination”, “indirect discrimination”, “systemic discrimination”, “sexism”, etc.
While being generally positively evaluated, this draft still calls for some critical comments. In particular, some laws, for which amendments are being offered, have already been adopted in new wording (the law on governmental service, the law on the elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine, the draft of the Labor Code of Ukraine, which had been prepared for the second reading, which includes anti-discrimination provisions). The draft was recommitted to the Committee. At the same time, as the national legislation for securing equal rights and opportunities of women and men requires further improvement, the Working Group for improvement and development of legislation in the area of gender relations was established under the Committee of Verkhovna Rada for human rights, national minorities and interethnic relations. The group is open for participation, and has to start its activities with development of the updated version of the Law of Ukraine “On securing equal rights and opportunities of women and men”.
5. Draft amendments to the legislation: on the way to denying gender equality
In contradiction to Article 4 of the UN Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the legislation of Ukraine does not provide for plans or any specific temporary measures.
The majority of the discriminative drafts of the normative enactments presently are produced in the depth of the Ministry of Social Policy (without any consultations with the public, or discussions). The draft 9516, submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which amends the Law of Ukraine “On Governmental Aid for Families with Children” can be considered as an attack against women’s rights. As the impudent memo for the draft says, “the draft was developed as part of implementation of measures under the Program of Economic Reforms for 2010–2014 “Welfare society, competitive economy, effective state” concerning unification of approaches towards providing all kinds of social aid based on the principles of targeted aid and income-based differentiation”. It aims to implement unified approaches for providing different kinds of social assistance, taking into account family income levels. It proposes “to limit the right of child assistance to single mothers for those persons whose average monthly income exceeds the sum of corresponding subsistence rate for each child established as of the moment of application, and average wage of employees, that formed in Ukraine for the month preceding the period for which the total income is calculated. “Article 183 shall be amended to include the following: “Child assistance to single mothers, to single guardians, to a parent in case of death of the other parent shall not be paid if the family’s average total monthly income exceeds the sum of the corresponding subsistence rate for each child under 18 years of age, and for each family member and child who studies under 23 years of age, — the average salary established for employees in Ukraine for the month preceding the period for which the total income is calculated”. This Law, in case of its adoption, will become effective since January 1, 2013.
The public also criticizes the government’s experiments aimed to impair the status of women with children. For example, in December of 2011, the government planned to conduct an experiment — to implement indirect methods of evaluating the incomes of citizens who claim they need social welfare. This provides for evaluation of incomes and expenses for “individual evaluation of each mother’s welfare”. This method is already being applied in Volynska, Kirovohradska and Chernihivska oblasts. Now, as the Minister of Social Policy S.Tihipko declared, the experiment will be extended to the entire country. The need for such measure is explained by lack of funds in the state budget.
One more draft calls for concern, which amends the Law of Ukraine “On protection of public moral”, which does not protect children from negative influence as it claims to; what it does it limits various rights of citizens, and thus threats women’s rights.
The renewed Tax Code negatively affected businesswomen in small and medium business or under contract, by depriving them and their families of income. The pension reform providing for increase of the retirement age of women, without taking into account the double load, and gap in salaries of men and women, etc., will have negative impact on vulnerable categories of women.
6. (Im)possibility of appeals against gender-based discrimination
In 2011, the Expert Council for consideration of appeals against cases of gender discrimination gathered only once, in April of 2011. The representatives of NGOs sent a letter with questions concerning recommencement of the Expert Council’s operation to the head of the Department of Family Policy, the Ministry of Social Policy, and to the Minister of Social Policy. As of the end of the year, there was no response.
The attempts to resolve the issues of counteracting gender-based discrimination in court showed absence of real mechanisms and absence of access to fair trial. For example, basing on the lawsuit of “La Strada — Ukraine” against the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, held according to administrative appeal, concerning the admittance rules of higher educational institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine that are discriminative for women, and concerning the gender-discriminative experiment, the Administrative Court of Kyiv city found no facts of gender-based discrimination. Just in the same way as in 2010, the courts did not see any gender discrimination in the words of the Prime Minister of Ukraine M. Azarov. As there are no opportunities to seek remedy on the national level, the first complaint was prepared to the UN Committee on elimination of discrimination against women.
We can also talk about complications in identifying violations of women’s rights and gender discrimination. The majority of people in Ukraine do not realize what “gender-based discrimination”, “sexual harassment” etc. actually is, and what to do in such situations. The legislation fails to create sufficient conditions for court claims, and even the small number of cases that actually makes it to the court shows the bias of judges who consider such cases. Absence of the principle of transferring the burden of proof to the defendant in such cases reduces the possibility of successful resolution of such cases in courts.
At the same time, the trainings on protection of women’s rights and counteraction to gender discrimination, organized and conducted by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in 2011, showed that the advocacy-oriented NGOs have barely any interest in these issues. This way, regardless of the efforts made, inclusion of gender problems to the agenda is taking place very slowly, or does not happen at all.
7. Sexism in informational and media space
In 2011, new sexist phrases from the highest governmental officials were aired. Speaking during the Forum in Davos, President of Ukraine invited Europeans to Ukraine, adding that Ukraine “needs to be seen with one’s own eyes” at the time when “the chestnut trees in Kyiv start blooming and women start to take off their clothes”. The “excuses” of the head of the Party of Regions faction O.Yefremov he voiced in the Parliament were no less sexist: “I, as a man, feel pleased that in spring our nature is blooming and I am pleased when I look at our women. For understanding this humor one must live in Ukraine,” — he said”.
In 2011, there was a tendency of growing sexism manifestations in advertisement and in mass media. This background made it obvious that the state is doing nothing and is unable to protect women from violation of their rights by gender stereotype-exploiting broadcasts in mass media and widespread sexist advertisement even after many petitions of NGOs to representatives of the authorities, to representatives of advertisement agencies and owners of the shows and of the advertisement. Another issue here is absence of successful court practices concerning such cases.
8. Emergence and spreading of fundamentalist movements
In 2011, the threat of church interference, and its counteraction to implementation of the state gender policy became very real: the letters are being written to the central bodies of executive power; draft laws are being submitted, which demand acknowledgement that such policy is hazardous for the traditions of the Ukrainian society; brochures are being issued in mass circulation that misrepresent the very idea of gender policy.
In Verkhovna Rada, people’s deputies ever more often voice homophobic appeals and proposals. In 2011, “Deputy Prayer Group” was created, which supports, among other things, fundamentalist and patriarchal values under the mottos of protecting “traditional” family, what became known during the Parliamentary hearings on September 21, 2011, concerning the problems of modern family in Ukraine.
9. Discrimination of women on labor market
We can see inaction of the government and its inability to protect women against gender stereotyped attitudes on the employment market. Discriminative job advertisements continue to be published, and this practice is never confronted by the state. Gender-stereotyped attitudes are reflected in the informational materials like official profession descriptions offered by all governmental employment centers. Employers, both in private and in public sector, regularly emphasize the desired gender of a potential employee in the announcements about vacancies, and use the information about family circumstances that they learn at the interviews to reject female candidates. Requirements concerning age and looks also become an obstacle, even if women completely correspond to professional requirements for the position.
Ukrainian legislation bans women from taking certain position and doing certain jobs. Such conditions had a goal to protect women against hard and dangerous working conditions. Yet the number of such limitations exceeds the accepted international norms for regulating employment of women, and the instruments identified by the Ukrainian legislation are based on subjective criteria that contradict the principles of gender equality and have discriminative influence on women by reducing their competitiveness on labor market.
Among other problems here we can mention employers who in many cases ignore the norms of labor legislation concerning employment guarantees for persons with family responsibilities, heads of governmental bodies, of companies, agencies and organizations, as well as military units commanders having low level of awareness concerning gender issues, absence of proper legal aid on the local level, as well as women’s poor knowledge of law concerning mechanisms of protection of their rights.
The draft of the law “On governmental service” (Article 42) provides for dismissal of a state official in case of “failure to appear at work for more than 60 calendar days in a row, or 100 calendar days in the same year due to temporary disability (without taking into account the time of leave due to pregnancy and childbirth)”. This provision, in particular, concerns women who usually take care of sick children and other family members, and for this reason can fall under these provisions.
Most women employed in small and medium businesses do not have a work record book, do not sign contracts or employment agreements because these lead to additional burden on their salaries, as the employers do not wish to pay the taxes for them. In practice this means: absence of work track record for pension purposes, absence of paid sick leaves, of annual vacations and of other types of social protection. State inspection bodies check only the fact of employees having medical certificates, not the actual level of social protection of female employees.
Also, we can see absence of organized and systemic counteraction to sexual harassment against women at work (suppression of cases, obstacles for court trial, etc.).
10. Political and public life
In 2011, the situation with women’s representation on the higher tiers of power, in the Government and in local self-government did not improve any. The share of women among people’s deputies, deputies of oblast and city councils is still low. At the same time, the draft of the new election law does not contain any provisions on gender quotas. There is no official data concerning qualitative and quantitative indicators for numbers of women in international delegations and agencies of Ukraine in other countries.
In December of 2011, in Verkhovna Rada an interfactional association of MPs was created called “For equal opportunities”; these MPs think that the topic of gender equality is important for Ukraine, including the issue of perception of these problems by the society. The initiators of establishing this association consider as their priority goals advocating for equal opportunities of men and women in the spheres of employment, education, and access to health care, participation in social and political life of Ukraine.
11. Rights of immigrant women and female refugees
One of the features of the present is increase of the number of both male and female immigrants from Muslim countries and influence of the Muslim culture and values, which has different directions with the ideas of gender equality. At that, there is no system for protection of the rights of immigrant women. Manipulation with some notions of the national mentality and traditions, detached from the general historical background and modern social context, increases gender discrimination, belittles and disparages the role of women in the development of the Ukrainian society. Interests and needs of women from ethnic minorities are not taken into account, which causes increase of gender discrimination in the context of disrespect to ethnical and cultural peculiarities of the ethnic groups of the Ukrainian society.
On December 29, 2010, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved Order No. 2355-р “On conducting the experiment on training of specialists for MIA”, which limits the right of women for education in higher educational institutions within the Ministry of Internal Affairs system.
The system of public education requires implementation of systemic gender approaches. At the same time, there is no governmental system to train experts in gender problems in the system of higher educational institutions. Due to non-systematic inclusion of the gender component into the public primary, secondary and higher education, controversial approaches continue to exist in the education sphere, and this, of course, hinders the process of implementation of the ideas of gender equality in the society as a whole.
Since 2010, with support of the Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights in Ukraine Program, trainings have been conducted on governmental gender policy for governmental officials, and on gender education — for teachers. These trainings have a goal of increasing gender problems awareness and knowledge in these groups. Unfortunately, it is mostly people who have no part in decision making and distribution of financial resources that participate in trainings. At the same time, higher officials have no gender sensitivity and gender awareness. As a consequence, we see lack of systemic changes in all spheres and on all levels.
The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine recommends discriminative texts. Example: Edition by O.M. Pavlichenko, English language. Final tests.
Limited access of women to education in the system of vocational schools in the specialties that are in higher demand on the labor market, require usage of modern technologies and secure better economic independence and stability. The state standards of vocational training (on competences, specific professions) contain the stereotyped differentiation of vocational training between “women’s” and “men’s” specialties, what translates into discrimination of women in choosing a profession and further employment. Employment of women who graduate from vocational schools is also not properly regulated and secured.
13. Health care and family planning
Wide-scale closing down of rural health posts and hospitals in rural areas encumbers women’s already limited access to corresponding services and deprives them of jobs that are already scarce in villages. The majority of girls and women from small towns and villages lack funds for transportation and lack time and funds for treatment in the cities. Local bodies of self-government pay no attention to this and fail to create conditions to at least make easier the life of women who live with HIV/AIDS (they are considered pariahs), and of girls engaged in sex business. All of them face double discrimination. Currently these women can get help only from NGOs.
14. Women who live in rural areas
Absence of specialists, social centers and social institutions prevent women in rural area from getting protection from domestic violence. Rural women’s access to resources and their use is limited: absence of modern conditions for civilized household organization; arduous working conditions, where women are involved mainly in manual labor; limited access to studying new technologies and impossibility to acquire technical aids for household because of absence of opportunities to obtain loans; limited access to decision-making, planning and controlling the process of establishment and development of cooperatives, especially in strategic agricultural branches (for example, grain production and storage, grain trading; meat production), which are promising in revival of agriculture.
15. Social sphere
Absence of, or limited access to social services was a problem and still is. Presence of centers of social services for family, children and youth allowed women under 35 years of age, and women with children, to receive free assistance of social workers, psychologists and lawyers, there was an opportunity to stay in the social protection institutions (shelters, rehabilitation centers). After reformation of the central governmental agencies, the wave of reforms reached the local level: social institutions are being closed down, transferred into subordination to other organizations; financing is not provided, workers in the social sphere are being laid off. The planned experiments in the social sphere are conducted in the interests of the rich, not those who needs help most.
Ill-conceived actions concerning increase of payments due to birth of a child and absence of measures that provide for responsibility of parents for raising children caused increase of birth rate in underprivileged families. Legislative changes concerning exclusion of the time of vacation from the time of total pensionable service also causes worsening of the situation of women and families with children, in spite of the principles of family support and demographic policy development.
1. To continue work of improvement, and lobbying for adoption of the State Program for implementation of gender equality in the Ukrainian society in 2012-2016, to make adjustments in the developed project and the indicators basing on the provisions of the UN Convention on elimination of discrimination against women, engaging independent experts and NGOs for this.
2. To prepare information from NGOs to the UN Committee for liquidation of discrimination against women concerning follow-up on clause 31, on political participation of women, the Final notes of the Committee based on the sixth and seventh scheduled reports on adherence to UN Convention on liquidation of all forms of discrimination against women submitted by Ukraine (January 2010).
3. To prepare information from NGOs to the UN Council for human rights concerning women’s rights and gender equality for the second Universal Overview on human rights.
4. To monitor compliance with the Main directions of economic and social development of Ukraine in the sphere of implementation of gender equality and protection of women’s rights in 2012.
5. To participate in the working group for improvement of the legislation in the sphere of gender equality, created in the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for human rights, ethnic minorities and interethnic relations.
6. To proceed with public education in the sphere of women’s rights and gender equality, conducting informational campaigns.
7. To more actively use court proceedings as an instrument of protection of women’s rights, as well as instruments of international organizations.
8. To use more actively the Law “On access to public information” for protection and advocating for the rights of women.
9. To use more actively the Ombudsperson authority, to send to her petitions on the issues mentioned above.
10. To conduct in 2012 monitoring of adherence to the Law of Ukraine “On securing equal rights and opportunities for men and women”.
11. To conduct trainings for non-governmental advocacy organizations, especially lawyers, on the cases of identification of gender discrimination and protection against them.
…and still unresolved (unfulfilled recommendations of the previous report of advocacy organizations
for years 2009-2010)
1. To develop, and to implement the action plan for fulfillment of the Recommendations of the UN Committee on liquidation of discrimination against women.
2. To develop an effective and independent mechanism for responding to complaints regarding gender discrimination.
3. To cancel order No. 155 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On approval of recommendations concerning dress code for the officials of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine”.
4. To implement real education of governmental officials in the sphere of gender policy.
5. To conduct tests and exams of knowledge of the Law of Ukraine “On securing equal rights and opportunities of women and men” for governmental officials of all levels.
6. To implement practice of public debates for politicians and high ranking officials for various socially important issues, including gender equality.
 This section was prepared by K.Levchenko — International Women’s Advocacy Center “La Strada — Ukraine”, Olena Suslova — Information and Consultation Women’s Center
 On November 25, 2011, Turkey was the first to ratify it among the 17 countries that signed it.
 This section was prepared using the materials from the participants of Gender Strategic Platform — informal association of experts in the area of women’s rights and gender issues: V. Bondarovska, T. Isaieva, L. Kolos, N. Kostiuk, E. Lamakh, L. Magdiuk, K. Levchenko, L. Nechyporenko, M. Rudenko, A. Savenok, O. Savenko, O. Semykolenova, M. Skoryk, Ya. Sorokopud, Yu. Strebkova, O. Syslova and others.
 “Welcoming Remarks of Mykola Azarov, Prime Minister, at the session of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on December 7, 2011.” Governmental Portal; “It is obvious that what is the major precondition for implementation of our plans is the stable, or, more precisely, accelerated development of the economy. First of all, I give a task to the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sport to develop a new State Program for Support of Family till 2015. By the way, the previous program expired in 2010. The minister should not have waited for the Prime Minister to tell him to develop a new one”, — he said. www.liga.net
 O. Vesnianka. Are you Getting UAH 200 of Child Assistance? Your neighbors will be surveilling you. http://dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15555979,00.html. “Those who will be inspected include single mothers; inspectors of the departments of labor and social welfare will be inspecting them, surveying their neighbors about the incomes of single mothers. The child assistance will not be provided to women who own an air conditioner, a modern bicycle, a scooter, a dish-washing machine, those who make renovations with expensive materials. Also inspectors will be asking questions about cohabitants and boarder of such women, their pedigreed animals and whether they receive any money transfers”.
 Andriy Lavreniuk. Yanukovych in Davos invited investors to Ukraine when women get undressed http://unian.net/ukr/news/news-418652.html
 http://unian.net/ukr/news/news-418812.html. — “I subscribe to the thought that we have very beautiful girls and women and when people come from other countries and see what we have in the streets… And what is taken around in cars is even better… This is why it may be true,” — added Yefremov.