“Although Ukraine is signatory to all international conventions and initiatives for achieving gender equality and has a number of relevant laws, gender equality is far from being a reality in Ukraine”, said Ms. Nuzhat Ehsan. “Women make less than 10 percent in Ukraine’s newly elected Parliament, which makes the political culture in Ukraine male-dominated and leaves the country lagging behind European standards in this field”.
"Ukrainian women constitute 54% of the population of Ukraine, they are usually better qualified than men but they earn only 70% of the salary of men in equal positions”, Ms. Ehsan added and mentioned other problems Ukrainian women suffer from – widespread gender stereotypes on the role of a man and a woman in a family, violence against women and girls, and a growing share of elderly women.
Ms. Ehsan also underlined that the United Nations welcomes the efforts of the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministry for social policy and civil society on increasing the level of awareness about domestic violence and on reaction to suppression of facts of such violence. She also voiced the hope that approval of the State Program for Ensuring Equality between Women and Men for 2013-2016 would let Ukraine make a great step in achieving equal rights for women and men.
So, does gender discrimination really exist in Ukraine? ForUm has asked MPs, psychologists, sociologists and experts:
Evhen Kopatko, sociologist:
- It is an interesting phrase "UN found signs of gender discrimination". The UN always looks for something. We often speak about gender equality. The leader of the parliamentary opposition is a woman, but the percentage of women in politics is not big. Such state of affairs is related to cultural peculiarities and specific character of relations in the parliament. Our political life has been like this for the last 20 years. Yes, women in the parliament are few, but they are so impressive that often shade men.
The United Nations may have claims to the quantitative representation of women, but there is no gender discrimination in Ukraine. Women should show initiative. There were attempts to form women's parties, but those projects failed.
Oleh Zarubinski, MP (Party of Regions):
- Gender discrimination exists in many countries, including the United States and the European Union.
This problem manifests in the salary level, for example. However, we cannot state that Ukrainian women are intentionally paid less. The fact is that our women often hold low-paid positions, and consequently the level of pension is lower.
Ukraine is following the right path on restoration of gender equality, but it requires time. It is impossible to eliminate something, existing for centuries, as of next Monday. It is a fact that girls successfully pass exams and become good specialists. In the near future, employers will not pay attention to sex of a potential worker, and male chauvinism cannot do anything about it.
As for elected positions, in some countries, for example, there are quotas determining the percentage of women in the parliament. But if we follow this practice, soon we will have to set quotas not only on gender, but also on age, national origin, etc. It is a dangerous path. In my opinion, voters' will must the only factor determining the formation of elective bodies.
Volodymyr Oliynyk, MP (Party of Regions faction):
- As a rule, women also have a family and house to take care of, and this factor must be taken into account. It is impossible to improve the situation artificially. It is a matter of evolution. What we need is to create proper conditions for gender equality and to change somehow the consciousness of society. It requires time. Europe as well was not always modern. At least we did not burn people at the stake.
In 1861 serfdom was cancelled, but in1917 it was introduced again. In 1950ies people could not leave their villages because they did not have passports. In 1990 we became independent, but slave mentality remained. We need two or more generations to pass for Ukrainians to have features of free men. Nice suits and empty talks do not mean anything. Even now people think like serfs. The liberation process must go gradually, through generations.
Ksenia Lyapina, MP (Batkivshchyna faction):
- What we have in Ukraine is dualism. In all new spheres of activity, like business or public activity, women do not meet any obstacles for self-actualization. But unfortunately, our state management system and political system are post-soviet, and gender equality is impossible here. Unless we change the very system, gender equality will never happen.
Volodymyr Lupatski, expert, political strategist, executive director of "Sofia" social research center:
- It is not about percentage, but about quality of adopted decisions. According to international researches, if women make less than 10 percent in legislative bodies, all decisions have technocratic character and lack social and humanitarian component. As a result, the major part of adopted decisions is unrealistic or doomed to failure.
However, it would be wrong to impose women's participation artificially. We should not increase the number of women only for statistics. We must create conditions when women will be able to fully realize their potential in politics and play significant roles and functions in society.
Oleh Pokalchuk, social psychologist:
- I don't think we have a problem of "gender equality". This notion was taken from European and American cultures, but it does not fit with our mentality. It is not good or bad, it just is. It is how we have been doing for the last century. Such phrases and words as "gender equality", "liberalism", "democracy" are good and useful, but do not have a correspondence in our language, which means that our culture and way of life are not ready to absorb these notions. In Ukrainian translation these words may mean "to give women more money". Well, nobody objects. There are talented people of both sexes, but it is a different story. But if we speak about "give me more because I am a woman" it has nothing to do with gender equality.
Marianna Yevsiukova, director of the legal department of the International Women's Human Rights Center "La Strada-Ukraine":
- There is no perfect recipe, but at the very least, we need a political will to start improving the situation. Gender equality is the task of millennium, but Ukraine, unfortunately, cannot present any achievements. 30% of women in the parliament is unreachable figure. Some female MPs submitted draft bills on quotation of parliamentary seats, but the Verkhovna Rada repeatedly failed to adopt them.
Moreover, Ukraine used to have a mechanism for insuring gender equality - Ministry for family, youth and sport, but it was dismissed. Some of its functions are now performed by other bodies, mainly by the Ministry for social policy. However, to improve the situation we need a relevant institution and relevant legislative changes.
Valery Tantsiura, ex-deputy minister for family, youth and sport, director of Kyiv center of socail services:
- Indeed, gender equality is far from being a reality in Ukraine. We still have small number of women in governing bodies. Moreover, we do not have a mechanism for ensuring equal access to decision making.
Many international organizations have given numerous recommendations on this issue, but they are not followed in Ukraine. We hold roundtables and carry out various training programs on this issue, but it is not systemic. The state bodies still cannot present a common policy on gender equality. We do need quotation, but problem is that there is nobody to promote this idea. Gender equality is not among the priorities of the state policy. In the beginning of 2000s the authorities started to realize that provision of equal rights develops democratic and economic process. In certain spheres women are entrusted more than men, because they understand better the issue. However, we need more women in all spheres, and 30% quotations can set the things rights.
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