Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend Ukraine for Achievements in Gender Equality, Raise Questions on Conflict-Based Sexual Violence
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the ninth periodic report of Ukraine, with Committee Experts commending the State on the measures it had taken to advance gender equality in the country, while asking questions about how Ukraine was addressing conflict-based sexual violence.
Dalia Leinarte, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Ukraine, said the Committee fully recognised Ukraine’s efforts to have this constructive dialogue during the time of genocidal armed aggression against the State. Ms. Leinarte commended the Ukrainian Government for the achievements in gender equality which took place in the last few years in Ukraine, including the adoption of legal instruments to combat discrimination against women; the approval of the State Strategy on Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men until 2030; and the establishment of mandatory gender quotas for national and regional electoral lists, among other measures.
Ms. Leinarte questioned the delegation about who brought cases of rape and conflict-related sexual violence before the courts? Who was responsible for coordinating this process? Could the delegation elaborate on the concept of rape being used as a tool of war? The Committee believed that Ukraine would come out of the war offering gender-sensitive reparations for survivors of sexual assault, and would be able to bring perpetrators to justice.
The delegation said despite the full-scale military invasion of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, cases relating to the conflict were investigated. Taking into account the vulnerability of survivors of such crimes, the Government was introducing a comprehensive approach into investigating these crimes, in conjunction with civil society. The Prosecutor’s office coordinated the investigation of such crimes. Sexual violence was indeed being used as a weapon in this war. All activities of the law enforcement system in Ukraine focused on documenting war crimes. There were many cases relating to the conflict related to sexual violence against civilians. Specialised police mobile units had been created to identify cases of sexual violence in de-occupied territories.
Introducing the report, Oksana Zholnovych, Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine and Head of Delegation, said Ukraine's ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was the basis of strategic Ukrainian documents, including the National Strategy for Human Rights. Since the beginning of the year, 95 cases of human trafficking had been recorded, and in 2021, the Government had approved the concept of the programme for combatting trafficking in human beings. New challenges related to the war were being taken into account, as due to the mass exodus of women and children leaving Ukraine, the risk of them being trafficked and sexually exploited had increased significantly. Since the beginning of the war, cases of sexual violence against civilians by the Russian military had been recorded in Ukraine and sexual violence was used as an instrument of war.
In concluding remarks, Kateryna Levchenko, Deputy Head of the Official Delegation of Ukraine, thanked the Committee Experts for their careful consideration of the report. Ukraine looked forward to the Committee’s concluding observations. However, due to the Russian aggression, Ukraine would rely heavily on the help of other countries and international organizations for assistance with implementation.
Gladys Acosta Vargas, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee, which had provided further insight into the situation of women and girls in Ukraine, in light of the particularly difficult situation. Ms. Acosta Vargas commended Ukraine for its efforts and recommended that the State take measures to implement all recommendations of the Committee.
The delegation of Ukraine consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Social Policy; the Ministry of Economy; the Ministry of Education and Science; the Ministry of Reintegration; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Veteran Affairs for European Integration; the Office of the Prosecutor General; the Prime Minister’s Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine; the National Policy of Ukraine; the Department for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Ensuring Equality Standards of the National Social Service; the Government Commissioner for Gender Equality; and the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-third session is being held from 10 to 28 October. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here . The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 October, to conclude its review of the ninth period review of Honduras (CEDAW/C/HND/9) .
The Committee has before it the ninth periodic report of Ukraine (CEDAW/C/UKR/9).
Presentation of Report
OKSANA ZHOLNOVYCH, Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine and Head of Delegation, said Ukraine's ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was the basis of strategic Ukrainian documents, including the National Strategy for Human Rights. In August 2022, the Government approved the State Strategy for Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men until 2030. The Istanbul Convention was ratified in June this year, and in 2021 the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses was amended; in particular, the legal regulation of holding responsible perpetrators of acts of domestic violence and gender-based violence. The integration of a gender-based approach into the activities of public authorities at all levels had become an integral part of the formation and implementation of people-centred policies.
To overcome stereotypical ideas about women, special attention was paid to journalists, and well-known women and men were involved in information campaigns. Since the beginning of the year, 95 cases of human trafficking had been recorded, and in 2021, the Government approved the concept of the programme for combatting trafficking in human beings. New challenges related to the war were being taken into account, as due to the mass exodus of women and children leaving Ukraine, the risk of them being trafficked and sexually exploited had increased significantly.
Children were given the opportunity to continue their studies in secondary education institutions with ensured security. But the reality was that 2,608 educational institutions had been bombed and shelled, with 313 destroyed. In 2021, the gender pay gap between men and women decreased by almost 3 per cent, compared to the previous year. National labour legislation was being improved to expand opportunities for women's employment, including women and girls in rural areas.
Preventative programmes for sex workers were being introduced, and the HIV prevalence rate among sex workers had a steady downward trend at 3.1 per cent.
In 2021, the reconstruction of 50 regional clinical healthcare facilities was launched, however due to the war, this programme was suspended. After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, 1,076 medical institutions were damaged and 144 were completely destroyed.
As of 30 September, compared to the beginning of the year, the number of registered internally displaced persons had increased almost three and a half times, to over 4.7 million people, with more than 60 per cent of these being women. Since the beginning of the war, cases of sexual violence against civilians by the Russian military had been recorded in Ukraine and sexual violence was used as an instrument of war. As of September 2022, law enforcement agencies had initiated 43 criminal proceedings on sexual violence committed during the armed conflict. One of the main tasks was to quickly adapt the violence response system to the special needs of victims of conflict-related sexual violence, to provide victims with a full range of assistance and services. In Ukraine, the network of specialised support services for victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence had been expanded, comprising of 431 mobile teams of social and psychological assistance, 43 shelters, and 37 daycentres of social and psychological assistance. In 2022, almost 15,000 people had used these services.
Many women's initiatives had been implemented in the Zaporizhia region, including four humanitarian hubs, where women who temporarily left the occupied territorial communities were engaged in volunteer activities. More than 800 women had already used the services. Ms. Zholnovych emphasised that the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine had led to limited opportunities to meet basic needs and rights. Ukraine was grateful to all States for their support, and was confident that the dialogue with the Committee would contribute to the further advancement of Ukraine in the implementation of the Convention.
VOLODYMYR DZHYDZHORA, Head of International Cooperation and European Integration Department of the Office of the Commissioner, Office of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, said Ukraine had taken several measures to accelerate the elimination of discrimination against women and to empower women in various spheres. In recent years, much had been achieved, but despite positive changes, gender inequality still existed in many areas. During 2019-2021, 96 people appealed to the Ombudsman regarding discrimination on the basis of gender, and in 2022, 21 appeals on similar issues were received.
The armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine had created new challenges, including displacement; loss of livelihoods; risks of conflict-related sexual violence; and risks of human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies of Ukraine were conducting pre-trial investigations in more than 40 criminal proceedings on sexually violent acts committed by Russian servicemen. Cases of conflict-related sexual violence were reported from the occupied and de-occupied territories of Ukraine, which predominantly affected women and girls. Ukraine was making efforts to regulate the State policy on the protection of victims and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Questions by Committee Experts
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Ukraine, said the Committee fully recognised Ukraine’s efforts to have this constructive dialogue during the time of genocidal armed aggression against the State. Ms. Leinarte commended the Ukrainian Government for the achievements in gender equality which took place in the last few years in Ukraine, including the adoption of legal instruments to combat discrimination against women; the approval of the State Strategy on Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men until 2030; and the establishment of mandatory gender quotas for national and regional electoral lists, among other measures. Who brought cases of rape and conflict-related sexual violence before the courts? Who was responsible for coordinating this process? Could the delegation elaborate on the concept of rape being used as a tool of war? The Committee believed that Ukraine would come out of the war offering gender-sensitive reparations for survivors of sexual assault, and would be able to bring perpetrators to justice.
A Committee Expert asked how equality, respect for women’s rights, and women’s leadership could be ensured as strategic priorities in the economic and political reconstruction? Only a specific, innovative mechanism that mobilised all international actors and covered all sectors of economic intervention and decision-making in all parts of the territory could help construct a new paradigm that made equality an active principle in the recovery of the country.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said despite the full-scale military invasion of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, cases relating to the conflict were investigated. Patterns were emerging, where instances of conflict-related sexual violence were being recorded in Ukrainian territories where the Russian military controlled settlements. Taking into account the vulnerability of survivors of such crimes, the Government was introducing a comprehensive approach into investigating these crimes, in conjunction with civil society. The Prosecutor’s office coordinated the investigation of such crimes. The first task was to provide services to survivors, including a safe and secure place of residence, in case of returning Russian soldiers. The Government was initiating an awareness raising campaign, so that survivors were not afraid to reach out and ask for support. Sexual violence was indeed being used as a weapon in this war.
All activities of the law enforcement system in Ukraine focused on documenting war crimes. There were many cases relating to the conflict related to sexual violence against civilians; 43 criminal proceedings had been carried out and among those there were cases that involved several survivors of cases of rape. Specialised police mobile units had been created to identify cases of sexual violence in de-occupied territories. Special leaflets had been distributed by the police to the civilian population, to encourage civilians to reach out for assistance and inform them of the services available. Trainings were conducted for law enforcement representatives to allow them to recognise cases of conflict-related sexual violence. The delegation said a holistic approach was being offered to victims of conflict related sexual violence, as well as access to justice. In May this year, the Government signed a framework with the United Nations on the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence, and had developed a plan to implement the framework, in conjunction with international partners.
Ukraine had created a network of centres for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, which were opened in strategically important cities of Ukraine. They had become a hub for survivors in many areas where people were forcibly displaced. The centres took into account the key provisions of the Istanbul Convention, including confidentiality of information and consent. The centres were created to help survivors to start a new chapter in their life, and offer them all services such as psychological help and social benefits, all in one place. Four centres had already opened, but this was just a beginning, with a holistic network of centres planned to open all over Ukraine.
The Government had signed a memorandum of cooperation with two key civil society organizations, and had started the procedure for providing temporary reparation to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Ukraine had created an expert gender group, consisting of more than 40 experts, and 24 working groups contributed to the recovery plan. Gender briefings had been prepared on the recovery of Ukraine, and gender equality and inclusiveness were seen as a key principle within the recovery plan.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said the Committee appreciated all efforts made in strengthening the political machinery since the last discussion. The Committee would like to support Ukraine in the implementation of this policy machinery, which was slow. How did Ukraine ensure that decentralisation did not impede access to basic services? What was being done to overcome patriarchal attitudes? How did Ukraine expect to address the regions which did not have gender-specific approaches?
One Committee Expert thanked Ukraine for taking part in the important dialogue at such a critical time. Some key measures had already been introduced which deserved recognition, including the amendment of the law on social services in April 2022, extending the categories of people who could receive services. Would Ukraine consider introducing further temporary special measures to increase the number of women elected to political positions? What was being done to increase the participation of minority women? Would the State consider temporary special measures to increase the number of women involved in negotiations and the peace process? What did Ukraine need assistance with now? Were measures in place to increase rehabilitation services for victims of the conflict? Would measures be implemented to mitigate situations when women and girls had been issued Russian passports against their will?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said indicators were applied to see how the situation in Ukraine was changing, and how the State should react. Guidelines were provided on communication channels, which were critical for providing citizens with the services they needed. In difficult war time, there were two types of working people: those on the front line, and those on the economic front. The First Lady had initiated a national programme of psychosocial support, which coordinated civil society, United Nations agencies and other partners. The stress caused by daily bombings meant most Ukrainians required psychological support.
Civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations were involved in all aspects of ensuring gender equality throughout the country. A new information platform had been created which highlighted all the changes in gender equality which had been made in everyday life. The national strategy of regional development included all questions relating to ensuring equal rights and opportunities at the regional level, and provided the key components of regional plans. Gender equality was reflected in the plan in all areas of life. More than 4.7 million people were internally displaced, with 60 per cent of these being women, and 22 per cent children. Legal aid, educational aid and temporary residence was provided to these people and financial aid was provided to families.
Women who did not have documents certifying their identity or Ukrainian citizenship would be provided with the right to receive free secondary legal aid, allowing documents to be issued in a court order. More than 3,000 victims of human trafficking received information regarding their rights, and protection mechanisms. The issue of Ukrainian citizens who had received Russian passports was a completely new challenge. The Government was trying to tackle such cases, however, a comprehensive procedure to determine how these people received a Russian passport needed to be developed. The capacity of the actors who provided assistance to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence needed to be developed.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if there was a possibility that a Russian soldier who had violated women’s rights could never be exchanged during a prisoner exchange? This may be a good preventative measure. Would the State consider implementing this policy?
One Committee Expert asked if the Government policy for gender equality could become fully functioning within the legislation?
Another Committee Expert asked about the challenges faced by mobile centres? Did they cover all of Ukraine? How would their work be expanded? Did civil society assist in providing psychosocial support for survivors? What were the State party’s plans to enact the draft law for strengthening the protection of women victims of conflict-related violence? What were the key findings on the study on the situation of female military personnel? Were there strategies to support women’s leading and shifting role throughout the present conflict? How would the action plan on gender equality be implemented?
A Committee Expert asked what measures would be taken to bring in line with international standards effective access to justice, and to ensure access to crisis centres? Would support be increased for women victims of violence and other vulnerable women? How would data collection be enhanced?
Another Committee Expert said the Government had a sponsored hotline dedicated to trafficking; was this still in operation? Some information received estimated that around 10 to 15 per cent of Roma lacked identification documents and were therefore vulnerable to trafficking. Would the Roma population be looked after when it came to registration? An estimated 104,000 were in State-run orphanages and at high risk of trafficking. How did the State envisage protecting them? There were situations where men pressured women with disabilities to marry them, to enable them to leave Ukraine. It was hoped that the authorities were dealing with these cases. The implementation of trafficking programmes required the attention of the Government. How would women at risk of prostitution be protected? Would the draft recovery plan have a section concerning trafficking?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said tackling domestic violence was a priority before the war. Additional analysis was needed, as the recording of domestic violence cases had decreased due to the conflict. In 2022, Ukraine adopted recommendations about discrimination in the military service and armed forces. There were around 5,000 women at the frontline, and 50,000 women working at different positions in the army. Increasing the ability of the defence sector to react to discrimination was a key priority of the Government. Support for women victims of violence was provided in the form of crisis rooms and hotlines, and was funded at a State and local level. Several hotlines were in operation and were being administered by the Government. There were also hotlines coordinated by non-governmental organizations. There were four national hotlines and 21 regional hotlines to combat domestic violence and support survivors. An audit of the hotlines had been conducted in September this year.
The Ministry of Social Policy had created an inter-agency group to tackle the issues which arose during the implementation of the State’s policies. Newsletters and text messages were sent to those who had fled Ukraine to abroad, and a website had been developed on safety and security for women and girls who moved abroad. Amendments had been introduced to enhance the draft law on the protection of women in conflict, which was the reason for its delay. Measures had been introduced to support those in occupied territories and help those in areas of active hostilities. A survey had been carried out which showed that the level of awareness of the population in how to treat an unattended object in public spaces was low, particularly among women. This needed to be addressed. However, the level awareness of the public was now much higher, due to the conflict. New reports relating to the Istanbul Convention were being developed, including on the topics of domestic violence and sexual violence.
The delegation said there was a serious number of laws and bylaws which needed to be amended, when it came to countering sexual violence and human trafficking. The Committee needed to pay attention to this particular issue, as there was ongoing exploitation of Ukrainians in many countries in the European Union. A platform called Aurora had been created, providing the opportunity for psychological and psychotherapy anonymous assistance. There were more than 22,000 job openings in Ukraine, and each of them would be reviewed to ensure no discrimination. There were around 12,000 orphans who were living abroad due to the conflict, and around 6,000 had relocated with foster families. In some cases, entire institutions had been evacuated. Concerning information had been received about children abroad, including risks of trafficking. The adoption of Ukrainian children had been suspended to mitigate these risks.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the draft recovery plan; was the crime of trafficking included within the 24 points? Had the amendments to the draft law on human trafficking, made in 2021, been accepted yet?
One Committee Expert welcomed Ukraine’s efforts to ensure gender equality despite the aggression caused by the Russian Federation. It was hoped that after the war Ukraine would set an example in parity and equality in decision making. Representation of women in high-ranking positions remained low, despite their vital role in all stages of the conflict and peace building, representing 27 per cent in the public service. What strategies were in place to intensify efforts to increase women’s representation in leadership roles, in parliament and public administrations? What strategies were in place to increase women’s participation in the diplomatic service? What protective strategies were in place for women politicians to prevent sexist attacks?
A Committee Expert said since 24 February, more than 9 million citizens had left Ukraine. This had resulted in issues for citizenship for women, girls and children who had fled the territory and for those born abroad. How was the State solving the problems of registration of births of children abroad?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the draft law on human trafficking provided some amendments of the system in dealing with trafficking and gave the local bodies more authority. Draft legislation had been developed on prostitution to identify the needs of those involved and develop a roadmap to help them stop prostitution and reintegrate in society. By the end of 2021, women’s representation was 29 per cent in high-level positions; as of July 2022, 32 per cent of women were holding high-level positions. The number of women in managerial positions was increasing constantly. The largest number of women was represented in the State migration service, where women held 80 per cent of positions. Twenty-eight per cent of the positions in the national police of Ukraine were held by women. The number of women within the diplomatic service and in ambassador posts was increasing constantly; 40 per cent of roles in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were held by women. A strategy had been implemented to increase the representation of women in the Government through measures, which included providing mentorship for women, and encouraging men to take leave to care for their children. Despite the situation of war, Ukraine would continue to implement these measures.
Employees were given compensation from the Government for hiring internally displaced persons. Amendments had been made to the Labour Code, ensuring 30 per cent of women would be represented in political parties. Training and workshops were organised for women with disabilities, to ensure they could take an active part in decision making at the local and regional levels. Simplified court procedures were in place for conducting birth registration in the occupied territories. In an app, there was a section for children, which let parents submit an application to receive a birth certificate. A list of documents needed to be submitted electronically, whether the persons were in Ukraine or abroad. Roma could also use this app. Parents of children born in the occupied territories did not pay State fees for registration. The procedure had been simplified to make the process easier for these people who were already facing immense challenges. Sixteen training programmes had been developed for civil servants, and more than 3,500 civil servants underwent these trainings each year. Around 90 per cent of participants in the training programmes were women.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if Ukraine had ever had a Minister of Defence who was a woman? Were women working in all branches of the armed forces of Ukraine, including the navy and air force? What was their percentage compared to male officers? Were there female military attaches in embassies abroad?
One Committee Expert asked if Ukraine had changed the legislation for the procedure of getting citizenship for children who had not been born in Ukraine? What was being done to assist Roma born on Ukrainian territories who had difficulty accessing birth registration documents?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said female participation was very important in the defence sectors. There were several women who had achieved the highest official general ranking over the past few years, including those in the Ukrainian armed forces. There had been no women who had held the role of Minister of Defence, but there had been female Deputy Ministers. There was also a female Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. The number of women at all levels in the security and defence sector was increasing. There were 38,000 women in the Ukrainian armed forces.
The Ministry of Justice was in charge of issuing birth certificates. A simplified procedure was in place, established by the courts, so there were no big efforts needed from the person trying to obtain the birth certificate. Awareness raising campaigns were conducted among the Roma people to provide information on how children’s births could be registered. Russian occupiers had currently blocked citizens of Ukraine in occupied areas to go to government-controlled areas, which created issues and prevented them from receiving government services.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert commended Ukraine for policies on aligning educational material with the Convention and the laws of Ukraine. Since 2013, there had been a decline in the State spending on education; this had caused a reduction of teaching staff and a closure of teaching facilities. Had 2,500 schools been earmarked for closure, due to low number of pupils? How many of these schools had been closed? What were the number of schools damaged by the conflict? With the number of schools closed and the unreliable Internet, how had the digital divide been addressed? What had been done about the training of counsellors in schools, to assist with mitigating the psychological impacts of the conflict? How would the Government make up the learning time lost by children due to the conflict? Were there steps to address the detrimental impact of the conflict on girls’ education? What measures were being carried out to improve access to education for girls from minority groups, and combat prejudice against them?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the Ukrainian educational system continued to function throughout the war. Education had been continuing in a hybrid format, and face to face in safe areas of Ukraine; 177 schools had been completely destroyed and over 1,000 schools had considerable damage; 17 universities had been destroyed and 51 had considerable destruction which meant study at these institutions could not continue. The First Lady had launched a mental health initiative which saw 25,000 school psychologists mobilised to work with students and teachers who had faced difficulties during war time. In the territories liberated from Russian aggression, education continued. Around 95 per cent of Ukrainian children were connected to the education system online. Schools which had a low number of children were optimised.
There had been a complete audit of schools up to 2022 to check their safety. More than 65 per cent of schools were equipped with bomb shelters where students and teachers could stay during air raids. Members of the State Emergency Department of Ukraine were invited to schools to explain to children how they should behave in situations of danger. Methods were in place to prevent bullying, including punishment via a fee, and community service. There was a focus on the early development of Roma children, where experts visited schools and shared best practices for different regions. A strategy had been approved which related to all levels of education, and all principles were based on non-discrimination, using the Convention as a basis. There were no restrictions for girls when it came to studying.
The level of digitisation in Ukraine was very high and there was a highly developed network of libraries in rural areas, which were used to develop the digital literacy of the population. A “no barriers” strategy had been adopted which aimed to help people of any gender, age or with disabilities to use services in all areas of daily life, to have access to education and to have access to decision making. Audits were conducted for educational establishments, and a special methodology had been developed to analyse the inclusivity of all educational establishments.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about completion rates and cohort analysis? Revisions of history books needed to be taken into account regarding the roles that women played.
One Committee Expert commended the State party for several amendments to the Labour Code. However, women continued to be segregated in low-income sectors, and they had been affected by high job losses. Would the State party consider a national recovery plan which would address the root causes of gender stereotypes and discrimination, with a laser focused attention on gender equality? A study conducted by the Government had identified women with family responsibilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons as the most vulnerable in the workplace. How would the State party use these findings to improve the situation of vulnerable women in the labour market, including those who used drugs? A large pay gap between men and women still existed; women’s salaries were on average 20 per cent lower than men for the same activities. What would a post-conflict Ukraine look like for women regarding equal pay? What steps would the State party take to reduce the wage gap between women and men? What would be done to improve the employment levels of vulnerable women post conflict?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the wage gap had been reduced to around 18 per cent in 2022, with the aim to reduce this further. There would be a procedure within the courts to protect women who received a salary lower than their male counterparts who held the same position. In 2021, legislative amendments had been adopted to allow both mothers and fathers to take parental leave, even if they were not married. Employers were given incentives for employing those from minority groups, such as single mothers and women with disabilities. The current legislation prohibited women from working at night. The Government was working to bring legislation in line with the principles of the Convention. Gender audits were carried out in organizations to allow the Government to evaluate the conditions created for women, and observe what anti-discrimination norms were in place.
Within the past three years, many legal acts in Ukraine had been amended with provisions on the non-acceptability of sexual harassment in the workplace. These amendments had resulted in mechanisms in place to respond to instances of sexual harassment. Among the priorities was promoting science, technology, engineering and math education which corresponded to the economic development of Ukrainian society.
Questions and Responses
A Committee Expert asked if women led labour unions in Ukraine? What programmes were in place to encourage women to become leaders of labour unions?
One Committee Expert asked about allegations of women having to submit resignation letters when they were hired with open dates, in case they became pregnant?
The delegation said there were stereotypes of pregnant women and those with young children; however, the new labour law, which would come into force in March 2023, hoped to tackle these stereotypes. All social partners, the Government, and representatives of professional unions, were part of the international coalition on reducing the gender pay gap. The access of women to science, technology, engineering and math professions was being broadened.
A Committee Expert said that in terms of sexual and reproductive health, and given the current situation, how were women receiving contraception? How were they receiving health care and treatments? Could the delegation explain about women who had been raped and about rape being used as a weapon of war?
The delegation said the Russian aggression was not just a conflict but a genocide against the Ukrainian people, with civilians, including pregnant women, being killed. Around 1,000 civilian women had been seriously wounded and were being treated in Ukraine and abroad. The healthcare system in Ukraine was a united front which helped Ukraine continue its fight for liberty. There were medical packages available for women who had just given birth and other health care packages were available which guaranteed free medical aid to citizens. In 2022, Ukraine had allocated 157 billion krona to provide access to medical care. As a result of the military aggression, 176 health facilities had been damaged, including 18 maternity wards, which made it difficult to provide healthcare. Thanks to international partners, there were mobile maternity teams which had been deployed. A huge problem had been experienced with the logistics of drugs for treating oncology patients.
An emergency reaction system had been created which had allowed around 2,000 people who were wounded and with chronic diseases to be evacuated from hospitals, and received by clinics abroad. Ukraine was very grateful to international partners for this support. Taking into consideration the huge problem that the war was having on the mental health of the population, it was expected that the majority of citizens would need some kind of psychological support.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said a large part of the population was threatened, and it was satisfactory that the Government had been able to provide social benefits to families and refugees through innovative solutions. Could the delegation confirm that most women who should receive this social benefit had actually received it? How did the delegation see the future of social benefits and aid provided to families, in light of the precarious situation of the population? How did the State plan to help people, especially women refugees, as they returned to Ukraine? Could clarification be provided on women in occupied areas, who were without the resources they needed? Was there a targeted action for women to be able to create businesses, including micro businesses?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said there was currently a massive air raid in Kyiv, and the delegates online had to go to the shelter, which meant they may not be able to participate in answering the questions. An international tribunal needed to be created to deal with the crimes against humanity. Over 6.4 million Ukrainian refugees had been relocated. Ukraine would bring back the people who had been forced to move when it was safe. Legislation had been amended to increase social support, including the baby package distributed to young parents when a baby was born. Parents now did not just receive a package which contained clothes and baby materials, but also received financial compensation.
Since September 2022, an agreement had been ratified with a German bank regarding mortgage benefits, which would be provided to those who had been selected through a lottery. Around 500 internally displaced persons had been selected for receiving these mortgage benefits, and more than 500 loan agreements had been signed.
Questions and Responses
A Committee Expert asked what measures had been undertaken to increase accessibility to social services for persons with disabilities in rural areas, particularly women? Were public services and high-quality medical assistance provided in rural areas?
The delegation said women made up 52 per cent of the rural population in Ukraine. Single, elderly women were very vulnerable and almost 48 per cent of them lived in rural areas. Social services, legal aid and employment services taking into account age, disability and any other conditions were offered to rural women, and were included in strategic documents. Ukraine had a programme called “affordable loans” and the Government had amended regulations on State support for entrepreneurs, to support agricultural producers in obtaining affordable loans. It was important to provide funding to business entities which were working to counter the Russian aggression.
The delegation said there were areas in Ukraine which were quite remote, and support was in place to assist facilities in these areas. Mobile teams visited rural areas and provided specialised help. The key priority was to ensure that the remote villages had a network of primary medical care with outpatient facilities. It was important that the people living in these areas had access to key medicines, which could prevent chronic disease.
A Committee Expert said the biggest issue in Ukraine was related to housing: around 60 per cent of internally displaced persons lived in one room shared by multiple families. What vision did the Government have to help internally displaced people in these terrible situations?
The delegation said internally displaced persons lived in difficult situations, but this was war. The delegation was under the impression that the Committee did not understand the situation the people in Ukraine were living in. People were being shelled all the time and there were limited resources; this needed to be taken into account. It was unknown how long the genocide would continue. It was vital for international organizations to support Ukraine as it was difficult to restore everything that had been destroyed. There were thousands of hectares of land which were now filled with mines. A lot of resources were required. The State would do its best to include gender equality in all the reconstruction programmes. Internally displaced persons had been living in schools; however, the State did everything possible to provide them with accommodation in houses and apartments.
Questions by a Committee Expert
A Committee Expert asked what steps had been undertaken to prevent child marriage and its harmful consequences? What legal safeguards had been adopted by the State party to protect women with disabilities from forced marriage? What legislation had been enacted so that gender-based violence against women was taken into account in judicial decisions on custody? What precautionary measures would be taken to prevent children with violent fathers from being taken out of the country without their mothers’ consent? Could the delegation report on measures to provide support to mothers instead of separating them from their children? What legal safeguards were in place to ensure women were totally free and were not subject to trafficking with respect to surrogacy? What measures had the State taken to prevent the neglect of institutionalised children? What measures were offered to parents so they could regain custody of their children? What measures had been taken to provide adequate social protection to widows from the war?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the evacuation of children who were in institutions to safe areas had been ongoing since 24 February. Children who had lost their parents could be taken in by relatives or friends, as well as foster families. A person who was 16 years or older could be granted the right to marry if it was in their best interest. Such cases included pregnancy, or having given birth to a child. The number of marriages before 18 was decreasing every year; from 756 in 2020 to only 324 in 2022. Up to 15 per cent of applications to the judiciary for early marriage were rejected. A draft law had been developed which addressed supportive reproductive technologies, with articles relating to women who wanted to become surrogate mothers. People who had a criminal record were unable to be guardians of a child. There were twice as many cases of trafficking in relation to surrogacy, compared to the previous year.
KATERYNA LEVCHENKO, Deputy Head of the Official Delegation of Ukraine, thanked the Committee Experts for their careful consideration of the report, which would help the Government of Ukraine continue protecting women's rights and advancing gender equality. Ukraine had been facing many challenges since 2014, the year that marked the beginning of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Ms. Levchenko looked forward to the Committee’s concluding observations. However, due to the Russian aggression, Ukraine would rely heavily on the help of other countries and international organizations for assistance with implementation.
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee, which had provided further insight into the situation of women and girls in Ukraine, in light of the particularly difficult situation. Ms. Acosta Vargas commended Ukraine for its efforts and recommended that the State take measures to implement all recommendations of the Committee, for the benefit of all women and girls in the country.
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