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NGOs report to UN Committee to cast light on the state of discrimination against women in Ukraine

Kyiv, February 20, 2017.

On March 6 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will release its final recommendations for Ukraine. According to the procedure, non-governmental organizations can submit their reports to the Committee. About one dozen of Ukrainian NGOs have used this opportunity. It was reported by Kateryna Levchenko, president of “La Strada Ukraine” NGO.

On February 14 in Geneva, Ukrainian government reported on the state of implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. At the 66th session the Committee considered both external and internal components: whether the state sticks to its international commitments and what has been achieved internally over the four years since the respective state program was adopted. Olena Suslova, head of the board at the “Women’s Information Consultative Center” NGO, emphasized that the UN is particularly interested in what the state has done over this time. Particular concern is the fact that none of the 18 reforms currently implemented in Ukraine draws on gender equality.

Romani women in Ukraine

Zola Kondur, Vice President of the international charity fund Roma Women’s Fund “Chirikli”, said that Romani women represent a particularly vulnerable group within the internally displaced persons in Ukraine, especially when they have children or are pregnant.

“Majority of Romani women face several forms of discrimination all across Ukraine based on gender and ethnicity. Women do not have IDs, it limits their access to education, healthcare, employment and other services,” she added. Moreover there is still no reliable statistics as to the number of Romani people in Ukraine. Officially they are 48,000 persons, unofficially up to 400,000. Quite a large number of Romani women have a low level of education due to early marriages. High unemployment rate and problematic integration into the wider Ukrainian society are also among the problems on the agenda.

Romani people started experiencing more problems after the war in eastern Ukraine started. They cannot get registered as internally displaced persons without IDs, women cannot get state assistance and social benefits. As a result, they face problems when trying to rent or find accommodation. In 2013 the State strategy for protection and integration of the Romani national minority into the Ukrainian society until 2020 was adopted. However the problems that Romani women are facing as well as the overall number in Ukraine are still not addressed properly. Experts suggest that the strategy should be reconsidered.

Non-discrimination of HIV-positive, LGBTI and sex workers

“Positive Women” NGO prepared the report on discrimination against the vulnerable groups of women including HIV-positive, sex workers, representatives of the LGBTI community and drug users. According to Alina Yaroslavska, representative of the “Positive Women” NGO, the report provides recommendations as to legislative amendments that turn to be most discriminative for these groups of women. For example, HIV-positive women have no right to in vitro fertilization, it is prohibited by the order of the Healthcare Ministry of Ukraine. Their parental rights are often violated. It is also important to de-criminalize female drug users, sex workers and HIV-positive women. Criminalization of these groups encourages violence towards sex workers especially on the part of law enforcement staff. Women cannot fully protect their rights as they are to be held liable.

It is also important to decrease the acts of discrimination against these people. For example some discriminative practices remain: for example, HIV-positive women are placed in separate hospital rooms or they become subject to psychological violence. Women having the status of HIV-positive become victims of psychological violence on the part of medical workers 15 times more frequently.

Violence against women resulting from the military conflict in the East

Nina Potarska of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said the organization had analyzed the life of women in the grey zone. State support programs are not functioning there. Women often start providing sex services to make their living.

Anna Yanova, representative of the “Justice for peace in Donbas” NGO pointed at sexual violence linked to the combat actions. Cases of sexual violence towards women held captive by the self-proclaimed authorities have been reported. According to Yanova, the cases of sexual violence in the temporarily uncontrolled territories and in the grey zone are not duly registered by law enforcement staff. That’s why it is next to impossible to track down the actual dynamics of this phenomenon. These issues have complemented the lack of the system for provision of legal aid to women victims of violence.

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