Violence against women in Ukraine

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Violence against women is an entrenched social problem in Ukrainian culture engendered by traditional male and female stereotypes.[1][2] It was not recognized during Soviet era, but in recent decades the issue became an important topic of discussion in Ukrainian society and among academic scholars.

Current situation[edit]

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]

In the view of traditional morale norms the Ukrainian women are supposed "to be beautiful and to be a mother". Moreover, the gender traditions in Ukraine tend to restrict women from holding positions of political power, while standards of male behaviour include being protective of women. The armed conflict in the eastern provinces of the country has reinforced the separation of gender responsibilities[4]. But the UN reports the Ukrainian women living in the conflict zone are at significant risk due to weak law enforcement, high concentration of military groups and proliferation of weapons.[5]

In 2015 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed a deep concern about rapidly worsening situation with violence against women in Ukraine.[6] According to the estimation of OSCE the violence towards women is widespread in Ukraine and it is associated with three times more deaths than the ongoing armed conflict in the eastern provinces of the country.[7]

History and extent[edit]

According to latest UN Report around 45 percent of Ukraine’s population (45 million) suffers violence – physical, sexual or mental – and most of them are women.[3] From the historical point of view the problem of violence against women in Ukraine was always surrounded by silence. There are not too many sources of official statistics to estimate how deep the problem is. This fact also brings understanding that the mass media is unsure how to approach the issue, the authorities do not know how to deal with the manifestations of the violence and the nation doesn't know how to mobilize the public to end the violence[8]. As a result all national anti-violence efforts rely on considerable support from Western donors[9] A few available statistics indicate that the violence inherent in the poverty where most part of Ukrainian women live. The recorded data also demonstrate that the observed value is just a minor fraction of a real figure due to a combined influence of traditions and personal shame.[10]

Domestic violence[edit]

In Ukraine a domestic violence towards women has a long history. There are evidences that the model of male aggressiveness directed towards women is transferred from generation to generation. Recent studies reveal that the violence against women is not limited by any particular segment of Ukrainian population and occurs across all social layers. There are not too many Ukrainian women who possess an economic independence, who has their own real estate and means to make a living.[11] According to recent research it remains to be a hidden problem, but it is clear that the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine leads to the increase in its prevalence.[12]

Sexual exploitation[edit]

The sexual exploitation of women is also a broad and serious problem in Ukrainian society. This issue consists of women's trafficking on the transnational markets and coercive prostitution. It comes up as a result of many factors including the impoverishment of significant part of population, soft pornography widely used by Ukrainian mass media to catch an attention of customers, and so on. Statistical data reported by NGOs state that up to one third of young jobless Ukrainian women have been involved to some degree in illegal sex business activities.[13]

Violence against children[edit]

A survey of young Ukrainian girls performed by All-Ukrainian Committee for the Protection of Children reveals that a sexual abuse of them accounts for high proportion of the abuse victims. For example, it was reported that one Ukrainian girl out of three had experienced sexual harassment, one out of five had suffered physical sexual abuse, one out of ten had been raped. Criminal statistics reports that 55% of registered sexual assaults in Ukraine are directed towards youth under 18, and 40% of them or 22% in total - towards children under 14[14] .

Legal base[edit]

The definition of violence against females can be found in a Program of Actions developed by Beijing U.N. World Conference on the Position of Women in 1995[15].

Violence in relation to women is one of the obstacles on the way of reaching the goals of equality, development, and peace. Violence in relation to women is a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women.

In Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence, the Council of Europe stipulated that violence against women "includes, but is not limited to" violence occurring in the family or domestic unit (including forced marriages, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse etc), violence occurring within the general community (including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work etc), violence perpetrated or condoned by the state or its officials, violation of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict[16].


  1. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 76, 78.
  2. ^ K4D Report 2017, p. 7, Gender norms.
  3. ^ a b Kyivans join global rally to end violence against women, Kyiv Post (14 February 2013)
  4. ^ K4D Report 2017, p. 6-7, Gender norms.
  5. ^ K4D Report 2017, p. 2-3, Humanitarian impacts.
  6. ^ OHCHR publishes alarming report on increased violence against women in Ukraine (2 March 2015)
  7. ^ The OSCE draws attention to violence against women in Ukraine (7 March 2018)
  8. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 76, Historical Background to Violence Against Women.
  9. ^ Hrycak 2012.
  10. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 77, Historical Background to Violence Against Women.
  11. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 77, Domestic Violence in Ukraine.
  12. ^ K4D Report 2017, p. 6, Domestic violence.
  13. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 80, Sexual Exploitation of Women.
  14. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 78-79, Violence against Children.
  15. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 76.
  16. ^ "Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence" (PDF). Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. 30 April 2002. Retrieved 3 April 2016.