UN CESCR: prejudices and gender stereotypes violate socio-economic and cultural rights in Ukraine

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR), having considered the report of Ukraine during its 67th session, recommended the country to supplement its anti-discrimination legislation and to adopt measures for improving the situation of vulnerable groups: women, ethnic minorities, in particular Roma, internally displaced persons (IDPs), LGBTI people and others.

Women still cannot implement their economic, social and cultural rights on an equal basis with men: persistent gender stereotypes about the role of women in the family and society reinforce existing discrimination and cause women, especially those coming from vulnerable groups, to continually engage in unpaid homework, hindering their participation in public life and the labor market. The multiple forms of discrimination faced by Roma women were described in the alternative materials provided by the Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”. Experts recommended conducting information campaigns to disseminate the ideas of equal division of family responsibilities, promoting equal participation of women in employment, as well as social and cultural life. Noting the underrepresentation of women in both the public service and the private labor sector, the problem of
horizontal and vertical gender segregation, and a pay gap of more than 20%, the UN CESCR recommended continuing efforts to promote women’s employment, working on implementing solutions concerning childcare,
encouraging the use of parental leave for men, achieving equal pay for equal work without gender bias. Thanks to the ADC “Memorial” campaign #Alljobs4allwomen the list of professional occupations prohibited for women was abolished in Ukraine more than two years ago, and about a year ago the Committee members asked Ukraine about specific measures adopted to promote education and employment for women in previously prohibited jobs. The Committee members noted the high unemployment rate among Roma and IDPs and considered it necessary to provide them with vocational education, to guarantee solutions for their housing problems and access to work.

Roma population continues to be deprived of unhindered access to employment, housing, health care and education. Moreover, the situation of Roma women is considered particularly unfavorable. Because of the frequent lack of personal identification documents, Roma rarely go to court because of widespread illiteracy, lack of legal knowledge and resources. Although free primary legal aid centres accept all people, unfortunately the lack of personal documents interferes with the provision of further services for the Roma people.

The Committee recommended developing and adopting an improved strategy for the social integration of Roma people, the creation of mechanisms to effectively fight against discrimination of this ethnic group, while drawing particular attention to women and people with disabilities, conducting information campaigns to combat the stigma of Roma people and raising their awareness of the procedures for obtaining personal documents and using free legal services.

The Committee recommended ensuring access to education for all Roma children, improving the quality of their training, involving them in vocational and higher education, and ending the practice of segregation, including by informing all parents about different ethnic groups and the benefits of ethnic diversity. Experts emphasized the need for equal opportunities provided for all ethnic minorities in learning their native languages and using them in private and public life.

Regarding the situation of IDPs, the Committee recommended developing and adopting a comprehensive national strategy and a plan for its implementation with the aim of improving IDPs’ access to economic, social and cultural rights, and measures to ensure access for IDP women to social infrastructure and support services, such as social
housing and childcare in order to expand their participation in the labor market, as well as informing the population at large about the problems facing IDPs and reducing the risk of conflicts between various social groups.

According to the experts, the anti-discrimination legislative framework of Ukraine continues to be fragmented: it still lacks the concept of “multiple discrimination” and effective legal remedies against various forms of discrimination. Although the Ukraine’s Labor Code prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Committee is concerned about the lack of such a ground for protection against discrimination in the country’s anti-discrimination law and the frequent disregard for the article of the Criminal Code on “Violation of the equal rights of citizens” (Article 161) in cases of discrimination based on SOGI. The Committee recommended that this situation be corrected, including through provision of training for law enforcement and judicial officials on
how to deal with discrimination cases based on SOGI. Given the high level of homophobia in society, the UN CESCR advised Ukraine to intensify efforts to eradicate stereotypes and stigmatization of LGBTI people through conducting information campaigns for the public, medical and social workers, police and civil servants.

Among the priority recommendations to Ukraine, on which it will have to report in 2 years from now, is the need to prevent statelessness at birth by improving the detection of statelessness, granting Ukrainian citizenship to children of the stateless persons and the full incorporation of the provisions of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness into the national legislation. Attention was drawn to this problem in the report prepared by the ADC “Memorial” and the “Right to Defense” Foundation.

Vulnerable groups, which are most affected by the violation of their rights, including social, economic and cultural rights, need additional support measures, which should be implemented by the Ukrainian authorities.

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