Gender Policy In Ukraine

In the process of Ukraine’s development as a member of the world community and on its way towards integration with its European neighbours, gender equality is becoming an increasingly important issue in public dialogue at all levels. By now all national legislation regarding rights of men and women has been brought into accord with the international conventions ratified by Ukraine.

Text: Vera Zelenskaya

The Constitution of Ukraine provides equal rights for women and men. Most international experts confirm that Ukraine has managed to adopt a gender-friendly national legislative environment, which guarantees that no one is discriminated against on the base of one’s sex. Yet, constitutional norms can be implemented only under the condition that legally approved international standards of gender equality are implemented in the relevant institutions. The government action programme has defined gender mainstreaming as one of the key policy objectives. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) is taking steps to ensure the authority of the law in the institutional provision of gender equality. The Millenium Development Goals targets and indicators (which Ukraine has adopted) are seen as milestones for providing gender equality and raising the profile of women in Ukrainian society.

It is true, that national legislation regarding gender policy is well developed and different kind of governmental activities in that direction were adopted. But let’s see what do we have de-facto - numbers are the best indicators: the gender gap in incomes of men and women - 27%, women in parliament 2006 – 8%, women as a Minister (in Cabinet of Ministers in Ukraine) – 0%, time for homecare activities – women spends 8 time more than a men, but nevertheless level of high education – women 53%, men 47%, 32% of electorate are women. Ukraine performs quite poorly on place 48 behind East European Nations (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) and behind Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Colombia, Uruguay. In some of this five important areas Ukraine succeeds more and in some less.

• The Disproportion in length of life between men and women is 11 years, which is the highest in Europe. And disproportion is different in different age – groups.

• Lifestyle of men and women is very different: men consider as risk-group.

• Domestic violence is still considered as a private problem of the victims, but also as a matter of public interest. But the most interesting in this sphere is that due to the most recent researches domestic violence in Ukraine is not as widely disseminated, as for example in Russia. This is more introduced than typical for Ukrainian culture: the main leitmotif for men/women relationships was the parity and even women domination in personal life. But after the period of Ukraine been a part of Soviet Union gender stereotypes and norms were adopted from the outside. But of course, the problem of domestic violence does exist.

• Clear definitions are much needed due to the fact that gender policy in Ukraine is seen as protection of women, motherhood and children under men’s domination. The situation is changing, but still the main problem is simply misunderstanding of “gender” itself. That is why the frame for gender policy in Ukraine is much wider than just law, institution and practice. It is also the question about the whole vision, mentality, but at meantime the main question is how it works in legislative, institutions and practice.

Gender policy in Ukraine

Formal equality is quite good adopted in Ukraine. But there is much to do for de facto equality. Sometimes formal equality is used as an excuse to avoid practical steps to ensure de facto equality.

Even more, public opinion doesn’t consider that existing level of women representation in the parliament, the gap in the labour market or sexism is a problem. Due to cross-cultural research that was made by Mrs. Janet Hide (professor of Psychology, Columbia University, US): women don’t feel discriminated. Historically, women in Ukraine were not in the second position. They could take part in men’s councils and they were heads of families. So in the structure of consciousness women feel as self-sufficient. For a long time os it’s history Ukraine didn’t know patriarch family. That was situation of parity. But of course, a lot have been changed while the USSR regime. Those stereotypes, which we have now, were obtruded by different culture. So, we have the conflict situation of self-identification. But due to the recent researches, most of people are loyal in the question of women’s participation in politic, but are not active in taking steps. The public opinion could be shortly expressed by the phrase: “Women have equal rights and they have all chances to get into politics of whatever and we are not against of that. If they need it, they will get it. But do they need it? ”

The promotion of gender equality, gender integration is not on the first place of the agenda of Ukrainian politics. One of the reason is that average people and those, who take part in the decision making process don’t know, why it is needed to be established and what it can change. There is a thesis, which is widespread among Ukrainian politicians that society only then will be able to manage the question of equality, when more urgent – economical, political problems will be solved. But world experience has proved that those questions are just different sides of the only one medal. I’m sure that the equality is an important factor for the social and economic development and hope that this recognition will be a part of forming Ukrainian policy in the future.

Nevertheless advancements have been done: Ukraine law mostly meets all the international standards and systems in the sphere of gender equality; Gender equality is officially considered to be a goal for Ukraine development; Gender orientated policy and concrete programs are started providing (2007-2010). But Comparative analysis of men/women position in Ukraine in labour market, policy, social sphere shows a big difference; Gender budgeting is absent; Difference in length of life (the highest in Europe) witness asexual sexism.

Gender policy in Ukraine

As we can see de-facto Ukraine is still behind gender issues. We have a qualified legislative base, educated women, women who are active on the mid-level positions of social life, men, who mostly shows positive attitude to the prospect of parity society … Maybe that is a problem? The absence of permanent discrimination? Or the lack of information about it? Misunderstandings about what is gender equality and how it can benefit the whole society? I think – that is and entire factor. The main thing that should be done on the way of promoting gender equality and providing gender policy is not creating something new, but using existing mechanisms to do that. Women and men can not be actively involved into the process they know anything about. We can’t ask an average citizen to use a gender-sensitive approach in his/her everyday life, if the state representative in his/her region have no idea what is that or even worse, it seen as a women’s question that automatically refers it to the “questions of second importance”. Ukrainian democracy should be gender democracy. To face that goal Ukraine has to: the first, overwhelm ideological engagement of Ukrainian society, and the idea of patriarchate as the only possible system; the second, Ukraine needs intellectual recourses; third, Ukrainian society doesn’t consider women’s movements as serious. It conducted with absence of the problem in media; fifth, women’s movements should implement gender issues into their activities; sixth - most of the NGOs are afraid to loose their independence, but there is a strong need in consolidation of women’s movement. And the last: activism must become the main principle of life for the greater amount of men and women in Ukraine. We have a very favourable background and modern conditions to improve the situation. The only things that should be done are real steps on that way by a person, by civil and by the state. And now we have an urgent necessity to learn “antidiscrimination behaviour”, which is based on principles of respect, but not burns.

I suppose, Sweden can show us a good example.

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