Ukrainian Women: Caught Between New Challenges and Long-Standing Discrimination

The alternative report “Ukrainian Women: Caught Between New Challenges and Long-Standing Discrimination,” which was prepared by ADC Memorial with support from the Centre for Social and Gender Research (Kyiv), was submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and will be considered at the Committee’s 66th session in February 2017.

The complicated situation in the country caused by political changes, aggression from neighboring Russia, subsequent military actions, the economic crisis, and social problems have impacted the situation of women, particularly women from vulnerable groups. Many of them continue to face discrimination, even though the government has improved laws and established additional guarantees for the observance of human rights.

In Ukraine, women are still banned from over 450 professions, which is a gross violation of their rights to work, employment equality, and non-discrimination. Lists of banned professions also exist in other countries in the region, and CEDAW has repeatedly recommend their cancellation – in 2016, when it reviewed the situation of women in Armenia and Belarus, and prior to this, when it adopted a separate decision finding the denial of employment to a female helmsperson-motorist in Russia to be discrimination (pursuant to the complaint of S. Medvedeva regarding the ban on professions).

Female residents of war-torn Ukrainian oblasts facing external aggression are in a difficult situation. Many women have been forced to leave their homes without their husbands in order to take their children to a safe place. Virtually all female forcibly displaced persons have no money and have experienced problems enrolling their children in day care and finding work and housing. The situation is even harder for displaced Roma fleeing aggression and pogroms: Roma families often struggle to acquire IDP status and benefits due to lack of education, issues with documents, and prejudice, and their children cannot continue attending school.

LGBTI people in eastern oblasts of Ukraine (the self-proclaimed DNR and LNR) and in Crimea are at high-risk due to homophobic laws adopted in these territories and growing intolerance in society. The situation is most complicated for transgender women, who have been left without access to hormone therapy, are subjected to constant document checks, and are unable to leave for a safe area.

The economic crisis, unemployment, and social problems have pushed many women into labor migration, and the life of Ukrainian women working abroad is fraught with difficulties and deprivations.

In their recommendations, ADC Memorial and the Centre for Social and Gender Research call upon the Ukrainian government to cancel the discriminatory list of professions banned for women, devote attention to IDP women, particularly those from vulnerable groups, and take effective measures to support female Ukrainian migrant workers abroad and reintegrate these women as they return from labor migration.