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Lawyer Yulia Naumenko: “Human rights protection activities do not pay enough attention to gender equality during employment”

Yulia Naumenko is a lawyer, who is now cooperating with UHHRU within the project to provide legal assistance to affected civilians in eastern Ukraine. Gender expert Tamara Martseniuk talked with the human rights defender about human rights education, gender issues in Ukraine and other topical issues.

Yulia Naumenko 1

– Please share your history of involvement in the human rights movement in Ukraine. Why did you decide to work in this field?

– My first encounter with the human rights movement occurred in 2012, when our country faced the issue of prohibition of peaceful assembly, especially of peaceful assembly of the LGBT community. At that time, I participated in filing an appeal to the court because banning of peaceful assembly, and in the future, in preparing applications to the European Court, because of violation of rights of citizens to freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly.

Then I participated in a number of cases of discrimination based on sex, race, sexual orientation, health, and disability. After the aggravation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, I started to work with UHHRU and to protect the rights of affected civilians during ATO and continue to engage in it actively now.

– Where have you got education and knowledge of human rights?

– Between 2005 – 2010, I studied Jurisprudence at Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University, specialty lawyers and notaries, diploma of a specialist. Later, in 2010-2011, I studied at the Faculty of Law at the University of Economics and Law “KROK” and received a master’s degree in the specialty “Jurisprudence.” And in 2013, I received the right to perform advocacy activity.

In 2014-2015 I worked on the case against the firing of a women because of her pregnancy. Ukrainian courts have not recognized the fact of discrimination, but after the case was considered for the second time, the employer was ordered to pay wages to the women for the time she was working at the company.

In 2008-2010, while studying at the Belarusian State University, I worked at the law clinic. In 2009, I participated in the School of Human Rights in Lithuania, later – in workshops on the protection of victims in the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

– What is your area of focus in the field of human rights?

– Protection of the rights of victims of torture, civilians in eastern Ukraine (captured, injured, killed persons whose housing was destroyed), victims of discrimination.

Yulia Naumenko 3

– Did you work with the theme of women’s rights?

– Yes. In 2012-2013, I worked on the case to determine the residence of the child of a HIV-positive woman. Because of her illness, the place of residence of the child was with the father of the child. Ukraine national courts had not changed the decision of the court of first instance. But the woman was able to negotiate with the child’s father and grandmother on the residence of the child with her.

In 2012-2013, I worked on the case of rape of a girl. After hearing, the rapist was convicted and sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.

Law enforcement bodies’ and society’s attitude towards violence must be changed.

In 2014-2015 I worked on the case against the firing of a women because of her pregnancy. Ukrainian courts have not recognized the fact of discrimination, but after the case was considered for the second time, the employer was ordered to pay wages to the women for the time she was working at the company.

– In your opinion, what are the greatest successes of the human rights movement in Ukraine?

– In my opinion, the greatest success of the human rights movement in Ukraine is the fact that in our country the right to peaceful assembly is realized, attention is drawn to the issues of the rights of our citizens in Crimea, including Crimean Tatars, the rights of citizens in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, gender equality, the problems of people with disabilities, the LGBT community, people who are in places of detention.

– What are challenges of the modern human rights movement in Ukraine?

– In my opinion, the current human rights movement in Ukraine is faced with challenges related to human rights in the occupied territory of Crimea and occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as the rights of displaced persons, the issue of release of captives.

Yulia Naumenko 4

– In your opinion, is it enough attention paid to gender issue by the human rights movement?

– Currently, more attention is paid to gender violence, particularly, to the issue of domestic violence, ratification of the Istanbul Convention. However, human rights protection activities do not pay enough attention to gender equality during employment, level of wages, stereotypes of maternity leave for women and duties of women in the family and the education of the child.

– Gender-based violence is a serious problem, particularly in Ukraine. In your opinion, what should be done to improve the situation?

– I believe that gender-based violence in Ukraine is a serious problem. To solve it, informative work with women to prove how to protect yourself, where to go in case of violence, is necessary to be conducted. Law enforcement bodies’ and society’s attitude towards violence must be changed.

– What or who inspires you the most in your human rights work?

– In the human rights protection activity, I am inspired the most by people, their trust, and faith in me. And also, the belief in justice and positive solution of issues.

Prepared by Tamara Martseniuk

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