The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at its 83rd session issued recommendations to Ukraine and Armenia, which should be implemented during the next reporting period. The Committee’s important recommendations to Ukraine relate to the issues raised in the ADC Memorial’s alternative report on the rights of Roma women and girls.
Analyzing the level of gender equality in Ukraine, the Committee, first of all, expressed concern that Russia’s military aggression, occupation and annexation of Crimea created serious obstacles to the implementation of the Convention throughout the country and leads to gross violations of human rights. The Committee noted that the Russian military attack on Ukraine is particularly hard on women and girls in a highly vulnerable situation – internally displaced women, women from rural regions, older women, women with disabilities, women from ethnic minorities (in particular, Roma and Crimean Tatar), LBTI (Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex) women. The Committee called on the Ukrainian authorities to pay due attention to the situation of women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations.
Highlighting the general problems of compliance of Ukrainian national legislation and law enforcement practices with the Convention, the Committee welcomed the abolition of the list of more than 450 professions prohibited for women and the approval of guidelines for conducting gender examinations in enterprises, institutions and organizations.
Noting the successes of the Ukrainian authorities, the Committee nevertheless made many recommendations on such important issues as gender-based violence, equal rights for women and men in labor, political and public life, access to healthcare and socio-economic rights. In almost every one of the recommendations, the Committee noted Roma women and girls as one of the vulnerable groups to which the Ukrainian authorities should pay special attention. Thus, speaking about the increase in unemployment and other problems of women’s labor, the experts of the Committee recommended that special attention be paid to unemployed Roma women, internally displaced women, single mothers, young mothers, older women, women with disabilities, LBT and women from other vulnerable groups.
In the health sector, the Committee recommended that the Ukrainian authorities continue their efforts to ensure access to high-quality health services, including sexual and reproductive health and mental health services, and also specifically noted Roma women.
In the socio-economic sector, the Committee recommended that Ukraine ensure sufficient public funding and gender-responsive budgeting to guarantee adequate access to social protection for disadvantaged or marginalized groups of women, in particular Roma women, single mothers, older women, unemployed women and women from other vulnerable groups.
Of utmost importance in terms of protecting children’s rights was the recommendation to amend national legislation to abolish any exception to the minimum marriageable age of 18 for both women and men. The Ukrainian authorities were encouraged to continue to conduct awareness-raising campaigns, including among Roma women and girls, and to provide age-appropriate, inclusive sexual and reproductive health education, including teaching modern forms of contraception to adolescent girls and boys to prevent early pregnancy as the main reason for child marriage. In order to improve the level of education of Roma children, the Committee recommended that Ukraine take additional measures to increase enrollment, retention and completion rates among Roma girls and women and girls with disabilities, including through the implementation of the Strategy to Promote the Empowerment of Persons Belonging to the Roma National Minority in Ukrainian Society for the period up to 2030 and the National Strategy for the Creation of a Barrier-Free Space in Ukraine.
Having reviewed the state report on the status of women in Armenia, UN CEDAW experts raised similar issues, paying much attention to labor violations. Thus, the lack of progress was noted in the abolition of the list of types of work and professions that are considered dangerous for women, minors and people with disabilities, contained in Decree No. 2308-N of December 29, 2005, which reinforces segregation in the labor market. The need to abolish the list of professions and fields of activity that are “harmful” to women has also been declared by the ADC Memorial for many years.
Continuing the theme of violations of women’s rights in the workplace, the Committee was concerned about the significant pay gap between men and women and limited access to stable employment with adequate remuneration for disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women, including women belonging to ethnic minorities.
Given these problems, the Committee recommended that the Armenian authorities reorient their employment policy towards achieving gender equality, and to achieve this goal, abolish the list of non-recommended professions that restrict women’s access to certain types of activities and facilitate women’s access to such types of activities. The Committee also recommended that measures be taken to eliminate the gender pay gap, increase women’s access to management positions and high-paying positions in areas traditionally dominated by men, ensure maternity protection for women employed in the informal sector, expand the practice of providing care leave fathers, and facilitate access to employment and training for disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women (e.g. women belonging to ethnic minorities, internally displaced women and women in situations similar to those of refugees, migrants and women with disabilities). Of particular importance is the recommendation to enact legislation explicitly prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, to provide victims with access to effective remedies, to ensure that allegations of sexual harassment are effectively investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished, and that victims are protected from retaliation.
The experts of the Committee did not leave unnoticed the reports of discrimination and harassment of lesbian and bisexual, transgender and intersex women and hate speech against them, as well as the absence of legal provisions governing gender reassignment surgery and gender reassignment in general, and the lack of training programs for medical personnel on the rights of lesbians and bisexual, transgender and intersex women.
To prevent gender discrimination against this category of women, the Government of Armenia was recommended to take legislative and policy measures to combat gender-based violence and discrimination against lesbian and bisexual, transgender and intersex women and protect their rights in all areas covered by the Convention.