Women's rights in Ukraine

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Women's rights in Ukraine
2 years of FEMEN 2.jpg
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6935 (2013)
Rank 64th out of 136

Women in Ukraine have equal constitutional rights as men in the economic, political, cultural and social fields, as well as in the family. Women receive lower salaries and have limited opportunity for career advancement.

Most of the around 45 percent of Ukraine’s population (45 million[2]) who suffer violence – physical, sexual or mental – are women.[3]

History of feminism in Ukraine[edit]

One of the biggest feminist organization in Europe was founded during the 1920s in modern western Ukraine or Galicia.[4] The organization was called the Ukrainian Woman's Union, and was led by Milena Rudnycka.[5] During the Soviet-era feminism was classified as a bourgeois ideology, hence counterrevolutionary and anti-Soviet.[6] Civil society and feminism were virtually nonexistent in the Soviet times.[7] After independence of Ukraine in 1991, a feminist movement began taking root.[6]

Currently there are several women's rights groups active in Ukraine,[8][9][10] including Feminist Ofenzyva[11] and Ukrainian Woman's Union.[12] FEMEN, the most active women's rights group in Kiev was closed in 2013. The organization left Ukraine because the leadership feared "for their lives and freedom."[13][14][15]

Violence against women[edit]

Around 45 percent of Ukraine’s population (45 million) suffer violence – physical, sexual or mental – and most of them are women.[3] Street women are the most vulnerable category; around 40 percent of them suffer from sexual violence, with 25 percent being under 18.[3] In 2001, Ukraine enacted the Domestic Violence (Prevention) Act 2001.[16] Nuzhat Ehsan, UN Population Fund representative in Ukraine, stated in February 2013 “Ukraine really has an unacceptable level of violence, mainly by men and mainly due to high level of alcohol consumption”. He also blamed loopholes in the legislation contribute to the problem of domestic violence, “You can violate women and still if you are a high-level official or from a high-level official family, you can get away with it”.[3]

Women in the labor force[edit]

Women make up 54% of the population of Ukraine and 45% of its labor force. Over 60% of all Ukrainian women have higher education (college level and above). However, the unemployment rate of women is very high compared to men with the same educational background (80% of all unemployed in Ukraine are women), not to mention the extensive hidden unemployment among women.[17]

Labor laws establish the legal equality of men and women, including equal pay for equal work, a principle that generally was observed. However, industries dominated by female workers had the lowest relative wages and were the ones most likely to be affected by wage arrears. The Labor Code sets the retirement age for women at 55 and for men at 60. There were reports of some employers refusing to hire younger women likely to become pregnant or women over 35. Women also received lower salaries and had limited opportunity for career advancement. Few women held top managerial positions in the government or in state- owned or private industry.[18][19][20][21]

Women in Ukrainian business[edit]

On average women earn 30% less than men occupying similar posts.[7][22]

About 50 of all enterprises without employees are woman owned. Enterprises with 1 to 5 employees are 27% woman owned. Enterprises with less than 50 employees are 30% woman owned. These numbers are similar to those in other Western economies. Women tend to lead small business in retail, wholesale trade and catering.[23] 2% of large companies are headed by women.[7]

In 2005 56.4% of all Ukrainian woman were full-time housewives.[24]

Women in Ukrainian politics[edit]

Since Ukrainian independence about 7% of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) are women, the percentage of female lawmakers fluctuates per election.[22][25][26] This percentage is roughly equal to that in Iran, while the global average is 13%.[22] Since the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election women made up 10% of the parliament.[27] [25] Laws to re-implement Soviet-era quota for women in parliament (30% or 35%[26]) have been debated in parliament but not approved.[25] Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and its successor Batkivshchyna[28] have been the only woman-led party to make it into parliament; although there have been more woman-led parties and even a few "woman issue" parties (analyst's have described these as "virtual parties designed to steal votes from opposition parties").[25][26][29]

The current government of Ukraine, led by the Party of Regions, has notably chauvinist attitudes against women in politics. During the presidential election of 2010, then candidate Viktor Yanukovych refused to debate his female opponent prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and justified it by saying that "a woman's place is in the kitchen".[30][31] Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated in March 2010 there were no female ministers (for the first time in Ukraine[26]) in the Azarov Government (Europe's only government that had no female members in its composition till Raisa Bohatyryova was appointed Minister of Healthcare and Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine on 14 February 2012[32][33]) because "Reforms do not fall into women's competence", while adding that he greatly respects women.[34][35] Women's groups in Ukraine reported Azarov to the country's ombudsman following this remarks. They accuse him of gender discrimination and holding neanderthal views[35] and did file different Court cases against him.[8] Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and (former) Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn have also made comments that could be seen as insolent towards woman.[36]

A bill banning abortion (written by Andriy Shkil) was registered in the Verkhovna Rada at the request of the clergy of the Greek Catholic Church and the Vatican on 12 March 2012.[37]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ Ukraine profile, BBC News
  3. ^ a b c d Kyivans join global rally to end violence against women, Kyiv Post (14 February 2013)
  4. ^ Галицькі феміністки 1930-х: нацистське "Кухня-Церква-Діти" не для нас
  5. ^ Львівські феміністки. Мілена Рудницька
  6. ^ a b A Biographical Dictionary of Women's Movements and Feminisms: Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries by Francisca De Haan, Krasimira Daskalova and Anna Loutfi, Central European University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-963-7326-39-4 (page 411 etc.)
  7. ^ a b c Topless protesters gain fame in Ukraine, The Washington Post (November 19, 2010)
  8. ^ a b Women accuse Ukraine's Azarov of discrimination, Kyiv Post (April 1, 2010)
  9. ^ New Feminist Offensive aims to lift women, Kyiv Post (22 March 2012)
  10. ^ Feminine Femen targets 'sexpats', Kyiv Post (May 22, 2009)
  11. ^ (Ukrainian) Аборти в Україні: право на вибір чи право на життя? Abortions in Ukraine: the right to choose or the right to life?, BBC Ukrainian (25 May 2012)
  12. ^ Historical Dictionary of Feminism (Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies and Movements) by Janet K. Boles, The Scarecrow Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8108-4946-4 (page 324)
  13. ^ (Ukrainian) У колишньому офісі Femen відкрили книжкову крамницю In the former office Femen opened a bookstore, Ukrayinska Pravda (23 October 2013)
  14. ^ (Ukrainian) Активістки Femen втекли з України Femen activists fled from Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda (31 August 2013)
  15. ^ (Ukrainian) Femen закриє офіс в Україні, але діяльність не припинить Femen closes office in Ukraine, however, the activities do not stop, Ukrayinska Pravda (27 August 2013)
  16. ^ http://sgdatabase.unwomen.org/uploads/Law%202789%20of%202001%20on%20Violence%20in%20the%20Family.pdf
  17. ^ http://www.belgium.iom.int/StopConference/relevantdocs/030%20Pyschulina.%20Human%20Trafficking%20in%20Ukraine%20and%20prevention.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/csaUkraine.asp
  19. ^ http://world.technorati.ro/node/59332
  20. ^ http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100590.htm
  21. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3979725.stm
  22. ^ a b c On Women’s Day, struggle for equality remains, Kyiv Post (8 March 2012)
  23. ^ New Perspectives on Women Entrepreneurs by John Butler, Information Age Publishing, 2000, ISBN 97819315767 (page 251)
  24. ^ Feminists Contest Politics and Philosophy (Philosophy and Politics), Peter Lang, 2005, ISBN 978-90-5201-252-0 (page 202)
  25. ^ a b c d Women's Social Activism in the New Ukraine by Sarah D. Phillips, Indiana University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-253-21992-3 (page 57/58)
  26. ^ a b c d Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy Second Edition, edited by Sharon Wolchik and Jane Curry, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011, ISBN 0-7425-6734-6
  27. ^ Too few women in the Ukrainian parliament, Kyiv Post (14 December 2012)
  28. ^ After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine: a tough victory for the Party of Regions, Centre for Eastern Studies (7 November 2012)
  29. ^ Virtual Politics - Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World, Andrew Wilson, Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-300-09545-7
  30. ^ Yanukovych: The Place of women - in the kitchen
  31. ^ Financial: Yanukovych Unwilling To Debate Tymoshenko At Runoff Election, 20/01/2010
  32. ^ Bohatyriova appointed vice premier and health minister, Kyiv Post (14 February 2012)
  33. ^ Azarov's cabinet has highest number of ministers in Europe, Kyiv Post (March 16, 2010)
  34. ^ Ukrainian Prime Minister Azarov had his office blessed, Interfax-Ukraine (March 19, 2010)
  35. ^ a b Ukrainian women berate 'Neanderthal' PM for sexist remarks, The Guardian (March 24, 2010)
  36. ^ Honoring Women, Ukrainian Government-Style , Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (8 March 2012)
  37. ^ Ukrainian clergy condemn FEMEN protest on Sophia Cathedral bell tower, Kyiv Post (11 April 2012)

External links[edit]