15 years of the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men”: achievements and challenges

It’s difficult to believe, but 15 years ago the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Law, aimed to establish equality for women and men in every sphere of social life.

However, we have not reached parity yet: there are only 20% of female-deputies in the Parliament, there are no women among majors of cities-regional centers, the index of the gender gap in the monthly fee is 21%, and according to UNDP, one of two women has ever experienced some form of sexual violence.

What does the Law of Ukraine “On ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men” state?

This Law is aimed to reach the parity for women and men at all spheres of public and social life by ensuring equal rights and opportunities for them, overcoming discrimination and applying special temporary measures for decreasing disbalance between men’s and women’s right for equality.

The Law on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men has the following statements:

  • approval of gender equality;
  • prevention of discrimination based on sex;
  • prevention and overcoming all the manifestations of violence against women;
  • ensuring equal participation of women and men in social decision making;
  • ensuring equal opportunities for women and men in joining their professional and family obligations;
  • support of the families and formation of responsible parentship;
  • education and advocacy of gender equality culture in Ukrainian society.

Actual challenges for the Law’s implementation

On the 8th of September, the discussion dedicated to the history of the Law and challenges for its implementation took place in the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.

Serhii Kyslytsia, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, mentioned that Ukrainian diplomats are among the most active fighters for gender equality and women’s rights in the world. «It is especially important to involve men in promoting women’s rights. I know there are these progressive people in business and governments. I’m proud of the Ukrainian diplomacy service that is the agent of spreading the idea of gender equality in Ukraine and all over the world. We can be sure that Ukraine has renovated the mechanisms of defending gender equality and women’s rights. Women’s rights are part of the complicated science that has its own rules and statements. And it is impossible to implement equality when you are not following them»,he explained.

Olena Suslova, the Head of the public organization “Informational and Consulting Women’s Center” said that the law had survived significant changes since the date of its establishment. “The critical changes were made 3 years ago. Especially the ones that applied to the governmental responsibility for discrimination issues were dismissed. The flow for overcoming discrimination is on a zero level today. Even though we have the Law on Ensuring equal firths and opportunities for women and men and the Law for non-discrimination in Ukraine”.

According to Olena Suslova, despite the growing number of discrimination cases in Ukraine, there is nowhere to go. ““Both the Parliament’s Commissioner for human rights and courts cannot be the only authority, because every case is unique and does not specifically fit their competencies”, – she added.

«Up-to-date Ukrainian laws provide a big number of statements that ensure equal rights for men and women. But reaching those simple milestones require lots of effort on all the levels of governing. It is vital to include gender components into local, regional and state authorities. This is the way to make it work and consider women’s and men’s needs»,stressed Dmytro Kaplun, the deputy head of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Ella Lamakh, the head of NGO “Democracy development center”, who took part in the development of the Law from the Ministry of the family, youth and sports affairs mentioned that regions did not know more about the law: There are few people who know that the law gives an opportunity to develop local gender policies. When we come to the local level and demonstrate that our law defends family values and defines the entities responsible for local policy for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, then most local governments get surprised with the existence of this law”.

Svitlana Voitsekhovska, the Ukrainian politician, public activist and co-founder of Ukrainian Women’s Congress said that the Law on ensuring equal rights for women and men had played an important historical law: “This is a historical document because it became the basis for ongoing government decisions on gender policy. The key role was played by the public organizations that provided the advocacy of the Law’s development. Although this Law is aimed to decrease the gender gap in economics and politics and overcome gender stereotypes, it is just the guide but not a step-by-step plan for ensuring equal rights and opportunities of women and men. This means that it’s extremely important to make the laws on gender equality better and apply state programs and activity plans. It’s also important to provide an advocacy and lobby for those statements in Ukrainian policy. And Ukrainian Women’s Congress pays great attention to these issues every year”.

Even though Ukrainian laws state equality of rights and opportunities for men and women, gender inequality is still a problem for Ukraine. That’s why consolidation of efforts on every level and uniting the decision-making capacity of the state and public organizations are necessary for promoting the parity of women and men both in the laws and all spheres of social life.

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