So what is positive in restricting women’s right to take part in government?
Kateryna Levchenko, President of the International Women’s Human Rights Centre La Strada – Ukraine, has no intention of giving up her battle against the extraordinarily discriminatory remarks and actions of the country’s leaders. In a blog entry on Ukrainska Pravda she notes that the Prime Minister’s statement that “carrying out reforms is not a woman’s matter” had been forgotten amid the events over the agreement on the Black Sea Fleet with Russia, the judgment of the Constitutional Court [overturning its judgment of 18 months ago to this time effectively legitimize the present government] and subsequent increase in number of coalition members.
She stresses, however, that the remarks which outraged people both in Ukraine and abroad can not be put aside since no legal assessment by the authorities has yet been forthcoming despite the fact that the month allowed for reviewing complaints from the public has now passed.
As we reported, representatives of different women’s groups lodged a formal complaint with the Ministry for the Family, Youth and Sport, which is the authorized body on forming and implementing gender policy in the country.
The complaint addressed to the Minister stated that Prime Minister Azarov’s remark, in their view, clearly constituted discrimination as per Article 1 of the Law on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for men and women. It also prevented recognition of the enjoyment and exercising on an equal basis of rights and opportunities, these including the right to take part in governance, the right to freely elect and be elected to public authorities and bodies of local self-government, the right of equal access to the civil service, as well as work in bodies of local self-government.
Ms Levchenko points out that such discrimination is also in breach of Article 24 of the Constitution which states that citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms and are equal before the law.
The complaint also cited the many international documents which guarantee such rights.
“And what was the response? It states that the “speech by Prime Minister Azarov on 19.03.2010 does not fall under the concept of “discrimination on the basis of gender”.
The author is forced to conclude that the specialists in the Ministry regard such restrictions, i.e. women not being seen as suitable implementers of reforms, as “positive actions”.
Their letter states:
“According to Article 6 of the above-mentioned Law positive actions are not deemed discrimination on the basis of gender. Also pursuant to Article 16 of this Law appointment to the civil service and service in bodies of local self-government is carried out observance representation of candidates of both sex.
It is permitted to apply positive actions in order to achieve balanced representation of men and women in the civil service in bodies of local self-government, bearing in mind the categories of civil servants’ posts.”
The author repeats that the only conclusion possible is that restrictions preventing women from taking part in reforms, which the Prime Minister spoke of, are “positive actions”.
She quotes a number of international documents which do indeed allow for positive discrimination, i.e. temporary measures aimed at rectifying the imbalance in the number of men and women. Ms Levchenko points out that the law quite legitimately does not itemize “positive actions”. She notes that in many European countries these can be electoral quotas or other forms of positive discrimination.
For the first time, and in a Cabinet of Ministers whose size breaks records in Europe, there is not one single woman.
The battle thus continues.
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