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.



Nuzhat Ehsan, UN Population Fund representative in Ukraine, stated in February 2013 that "Ukraine really has an unacceptable level of violence, mainly by men and mainly due to [the] high level of alcohol consumption". He blamed loopholes in the legislation as contributing to the problem of domestic violence, stating, "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 moral 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 War in Donbas in Ukraine's Donbas region, which started in 2014, reinforced the separation of gender responsibilities.[4] The UN[who?] stated that Ukrainian women living in the conflict zone were 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 deep concern about the rapidly worsening situation with violence against women in Ukraine.[6] According to the OSCE, in 2018, violence towards women was widespread in Ukraine and was associated with three times more deaths than the War in Donbas.[7]


Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, numerous accounts of violence and sexual violence against women in Ukraine emerged, including assault, torture, rape and gang-rape.[8][9]

Studies and responses to sexual violence[edit]

According to a UN Report in 2013, around 45 percent of Ukraine's population of 45 million suffered violence – physical, sexual or mental – and most of them are women.[3] From the historical point of view,[when?] the problem of violence against women in Ukraine was traditionally kept silent. As of 2013, there were not many sources of official statistics on sexual violence in Ukraine. Mass media were unsure of how to approach the issue, the authorities did not know how to deal with it and Ukrainian society as a whole was not prepared to end the violence.[10] As a result, all national anti-violence efforts relied on considerable support from Western donors.[11] The recorded data also demonstrates that the observed incidence of sexual violence against women is strongly underestimated due to a combined influence of tradition and personal shame.[12]

Forms of violence[edit]

Domestic violence[edit]

In Ukraine domestic violence towards women has a long history. There is evidence that the model of male aggression directed towards women is transferred from generation to generation. Recent studies reveal that violence against women is not limited to any particular segment of the Ukrainian population and occurs across all social layers. There are not many Ukrainian women who have achieved economic independence and own their own home.[13] As of 2017, violence against women remained a hidden problem. The War in Donbas led to an increase in prevalence.[14]

In early 2020 there were very few women's shelters in Ukraine.[15]

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 in 2000 state that up to one third of young jobless Ukrainian women have been involved to some degree in illegal sex business activities.[16]

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.[17]

Legal base[edit]

In February 2019 domestic violence was made a criminal offense in Ukraine meaning perpetrators could be fined, or sentenced to community service or a prison sentence.[15] Previously perpetrators could be subjected to a maximum of administrative punishment.[15] According to The Ukrainian Week about 5% of victims report violence to the Ukrainian police.[15]


  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. ^ McKernan, Bethan (5 April 2022). "Rape as a weapon: huge scale of sexual violence inflicted in Ukraine emerges". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  9. ^ Engelbrecht, Cora (29 March 2022). "Reports of sexual violence involving Russian soldiers are multiplying, Ukrainian officials say". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  10. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 76, Historical Background to Violence Against Women.
  11. ^ Hrycak 2012.
  12. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 77, Historical Background to Violence Against Women.
  13. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 77, Domestic Violence in Ukraine.
  14. ^ K4D Report 2017, p. 6, Domestic violence.
  15. ^ a b c d (in Ukrainian) Where they will not find, The Ukrainian Week, (16 February 2020)
  16. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 80, Sexual Exploitation of Women.
  17. ^ Kobelyanska 2000, p. 78-79, Violence against Children.


External links[edit]