Therefore, the issues examined during the presentation “Gender Stereotypes and Discrimination in Ukraine” by Anastasia Divinska, head of UN Women Ukraine, were extremely relevant and interesting for all participants of the Ukrainian Women’s Congress in Lviv.
“Global gender stereotypes and discrimination against women still exist both in the public and private sectors, in times of conflict and peace,” Anastasia Divinska noted, “They go beyond national, cultural and religious boundaries, often fueled by patriarchal stereotypes and imbalance of power, as reflected in laws, policy and practice”.
Following the transition from the Soviet past, Ukraine is now at the stage of building new national narratives, in which the restoration of traditional gender relationships is often seen as a way of revitalizing the Ukrainian nation, preserving families and restoring the moral traditions that the Soviet system used to destroy.
The situation of active conflicts and security problems in the country is also used as justification of non-priority of gender equality issues faced by women.
According to the speaker, the patriarchy is the main cause of discrimination against women and girls, and violence against them is the most common manifestation. In Ukraine, the patriarchy is manifested in the fact that women are underrepresented in the government and parliament; they do the main part of housework and care for children; there is a negative attitude towards women’s sexuality, etc. Patriarchal views emphasize inequality between women and men, introduce the discriminatory public discourse on women’s subordinate roles, divert traditional roles and deprive women and girls of equal rights and opportunities.
Ms. Divinska quoted the results of surveys, in which respondents mentioned the gender stereotypes of the “traditional” roles of women and men existing in the Ukrainian society, despite laws and policies that support gender equality. Thus, more than 40% of male and 25% of female respondents agreed that “women should not burden men with housework”, almost 80% of the respondents said that “women are mainly engaged in cooking in the family”.
The surveys also showed that women are underrepresented in politics and media, especially as experts or specialists; their points of view are marginalized; women are most often represented as celebrities or victims. These issues become aggravated during the election, which significantly affects women’s access to accurate information from both voters and representation of female candidates.
Several UN institutions for human rights, in particular the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), are increasingly aware of adverse impact of gender stereotypes. The work of these institutions helped to raise the issue of gender stereotypes at the international level and attract serious attention to this problem.
As the speaker emphasized, to prevent discrimination and inequality, the national legal framework should take into account global experience and recommendations of international organizations; new legislation must be developed and implemented in accordance with a holistic approach based on human rights: to respect these rights by abolishing and terminating laws or any other actions of the state that directly or indirectly discriminate against women; to ensure adequate response to cases of violation of women’s rights; to guarantee the empowerment of women. Adoption of laws aimed at achieving the equal status of women and men and establishment of quotas for women is a good example of counteracting various obstacles to women’s participation in politics and ensuring direct representation of women in political institutions.
Efforts to raise public awareness of problems with human rights, in particular rights of women and feminist analysis, and their inclusion in research and government policies, create conditions for the development and implementation of modern legislation.