Despite harsh realities resulting from the crisis in and around Ukraine, women continue to play a particularly active role in local social cohesion activities and in Ukraine’s civil society, including as human rights defenders. The SMM continued to monitor initiatives implemented by women and women’s groups at the community level, including those related to dialogue and peacebuilding. The Mission noted that networks of women play an important role in ensuring access to humanitarian assistance as well as education and healthcare facilities on both sides of the contact line.
Women remain underrepresented on the decision-making level in the political and security spheres. Some of the barriers identified relate to traditional views on women’s roles and the unequal distribution of economic resources. While some interlocutors voiced concerns about women’s achievements in local politics going unnoticed and the insufficiency of gender policies to address more systemic issues, the general outlook of local elected officials across regions was supportive of increased participation of women in politics. Several women’s organizations have also expressed interest in finding ways to better connect local level dialogue with higher level dialogue and peacebuilding initiatives, as well as create synergies accordingly.
Considerable changes occurred with regard to equal treatment in the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). A number of discriminatory regulations, mainly affecting women, were abolished. Despite legislative changes, women in the UAF, or female veterans, did share experiences relating to overprotective or over-challenging treatment by their male colleagues. This report also sheds light on some of the different experiences male and female veterans have and touches upon issues flagged with regard to services available to former members of armed formations in non-government-controlled areas.
The Mission monitored conflict-related trends in gender-based violence (GBV) and trafficking in human beings. Underreporting to police and health workers, including due to fear of stigmatization or of more harm, makes it extremely difficult to collect reliable data on these issues. Nonetheless, the SMM was able to assess that the conflict has exacerbated risks and prevalence of GBV in particular, affecting also internally displaced persons (IDPs), including those in collective centres in non-government-controlled areas. Available services for survivors have also been affected by the conflict.
The Mission monitored various assemblies and rallies across government-controlled areas of Ukraine in support of gender equality. On a number of occasions, the SMM has observed members of radical groups intimidating participants of rallies in support of women’s rights and/or rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) individuals. Regarding non-government-controlled areas, the Mission was made aware of the introduction of measures further limiting space for freedom of expression and assembly, in particular with regard to LGBTIQ rights.
In March 2018, the SMM adopted a Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP), which aims at strengthening the Mission’s contribution to OSCE commitments in the sphere of gender equality by ensuring systematic gender mainstreaming in all the SMM’s activities. The SMM’s network of Gender Focal Points (GFPs) continued to deliver internal training and external outreach activities in the sphere of gender equality, peace and security.