WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP PERIODIC REPORTS OF UKRAINE; EXPERTS STRESS NEED TO INCREASE WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION IN DECISION-MAKING

6 June 2002
WOM/1341

WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP PERIODIC REPORTS OF UKRAINE; EXPERTS STRESS NEED TO INCREASE WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION IN DECISION-MAKING

06/06/2002
Press Release
WOM/1341


Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

555th and 556th Meetings (AM & PM)


WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TAKES UP PERIODIC REPORTS OF UKRAINE;

EXPERTS STRESS NEED TO INCREASE WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION IN DECISION-MAKING


Quotas among Temporary Measures Envisioned by Convention;

Health Impact of Chernobyl Disaster, Employment, Abortion Also Addressed


The fact that highly educated women in Ukraine were not proportionately represented in decision-making positions “was begging for special temporary political measures” for the advancement of women, one of the expert members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said today.


As the Committee considered Ukraine’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports during two meetings today, its experts pointed out that a major problem identified in the report was not an inadequate number of legal standards, but the lack of machinery to ensure equal legal representation of women in elected organs.  Without women in decision-making positions, it was particularly difficult to advance gender-related decisions because of men’s resistance.


Such measures to promote de facto equality between men and women, including quotas and time-bound targets, are envisioned under article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which states that they should be “discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved”.  As part of the United Nations human rights machinery, the Committee, made up of 23 experts, monitors compliance with the Convention, which requires its 169 States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights.


The Convention was ratified by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1980, and the last of the country’s three reports was considered by the Committee in 1996.


Presenting her country’s reports, Valentyna Dovzhenko, Head of the State Committee for Family and Youth Affairs of Ukraine, said that despite the fact that Ukraine was a young State, which had acquired independence only 10 years ago, it was quickly moving towards the establishment of a truly democratic society.  In general, it had made good progress in advancing the situation of women, having formed a legal and normative basis for implementing the provisions of the Convention.  However, further efforts were needed to overcome the negative


stereotypes, improve the economic situation in the country and advance labour conditions for women.


Following the elections of 2002, the number of women representatives at the local level had increased to 50 per cent, but at a higher level, their representation rarely exceeded 10 per cent.  The country’s Parliament was only

5.1 per cent female.  The situation was similar in Ukraine’s central executive bodies.  Thus, women still did not have equal access to decision-making, and the question of special measures for the advancement of women was of real relevance in Ukraine.  Currently under consideration was a proposal to introduce a 30 per cent parliamentary quota for women.


She went on to say that special programmes were being introduced to provide economic support to women and assist them in employment.  Additional State guarantees in that respect were provided for women with young children, single mothers and those with disabled children.  They received quotas totalling 5 per cent of the total number of jobs, which for 2001 reached 36,000.


In the article-by-article consideration of the country’s compliance with the Convention, several experts expressed serious concern regarding a high level of abortions, which they said seemed to be being used as a family-planning method in Ukraine.  The country seemed to misinterpret the meaning of family planning, which should involve prevention of unwanted pregnancy.  Repeated abortions could have a negative effect on a woman’s health.  The issue also had a hidden discrimination aspect, for men did not have to go through repeated surgical procedures, like women did.  Accessible, affordable and acceptable contraceptives should be available to Ukrainian women.


The country representatives countered that both urban and rural women were now well informed about the use of contraceptives, which were widely used in Ukraine.  While it was true that in 1990 the number of abortions had exceeded

1 million, a twofold decline in their number to some 408,000 in 2000 testified to the effectiveness of the Government’s recent efforts in the area of reproductive health.


Among other issues raised in the debate were measures directed against the growing problem of trafficking in women; penalties for prostitution; violence against women; access to education; the situation of elderly and rural women; and the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on women’s health.


The country’s delegation also included Mariya Pasichnyk of the Ministry of Justice; Oksana Krasovyd of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Oksana Boiko of Ukraine’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.


At 10:30 a.m. Friday, 7 June, the Committee will take up Suriname’s combined initial and second periodic reports.


Background


Ukraine’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports (document CEDAW/C/UKR/4-5) contain information and statistical data covering the period since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  [The Convention was ratified by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1980, and the last of the country’s three reports was considered by the Committee in 1996.]


According to the document, Ukraine’s national machinery for the advancement of women includes the Department on Women’s Affairs and Protection of the Family, Women and Children and a parliamentary subcommittee on these issues.  In 1996, the Ministry of Family and Youth was established to implement State policy on family, women’s and youth issues.  An important role within the Ministry is played by the Directorate for Women’s Affairs, which deals with social and legal work, as well as assistance for women in public and cultural activities.  The Ministry also has a coordination council on questions relating to women and an equal opportunities (gender) council.  A national plan of action has been introduced in the country to improve the situation of women.


Men and women in Ukraine have a full range of social, economic, political and individual rights and freedoms, the report goes on to say.  It is the duty of all State organs, public associations and officials to respect the individual and protect freedoms and civil and human rights. Under article 55 of the Constitution, every citizen is entitled to seek protection of his or her rights before relevant international legal institutions and appropriate organs of international organizations of which Ukraine is a member.  The Criminal Code of the country also addresses the need to eliminate discrimination against women.  For example, its article 99 establishes liability for causing a woman in a state of material or other dependence on another person to commit suicide by treating her cruelly or systematically humiliating her.  Article 134 establishes liability for refusing to hire a woman on the grounds that she is pregnant or breast-feeding a child.


The report focuses mostly on legal provisions pertaining to women’s equality.  It explains, for instance, that the country’s labour legislation specifies that pregnant women and those with children under three years of age are entitled to be transferred to lighter work without losing pay from her regular place of employment.  Night work for pregnant women and women with young children is prohibited.  The women are entitled to maternity leave and leave of absence to care for a child until the child reaches the age of three.  To increase awareness of women’s issues, the national television and radio broadcast companies give continuous coverage to problems relating to family, motherhood and enhancing women’s role in society.


From 1995 to 1997, 16 cases of trafficking in women were recorded in the country, the report states.  Under the guise of creative and artistic enterprises, through deception and fraud, women were drawn out of the country and sold to brothels.  In 1997, 77 inquiries and communications were sent by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to foreign countries concerning 123 people who had been arrested or charged in connection with crimes connected to prostitution and trafficking in women.  An additional article was inserted into the country’s Criminal Code, entitled “Traffic in Persons”.  Special units within the regional departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are engaged in combating prostitution, drug addiction and trafficking in people.  All firms which invite Ukrainian citizens to work outside of the country must now have a permit from the Ministry of Labour.


The report goes on to describe constitutional provisions relating to the elections and participation of women in the political life of the country, stating that Ukrainian legislation does not contain any discriminatory provisions affecting the right of women to be elected to positions of power or to represent the Government at the international level.  However, the problem of parity remains, for there is no machinery to ensure equal representation of women and men in elected organs.  Of 435 high-level officials in central executive organs, only 6.7 per cent are women, for example.  As for the civil service in Ukraine, there is a trend towards an increase in the number of women there.  Women constituted 70.8 per cent of the total number of civil servants in 1996, and almost 72 per cent in 1997.  In 1998, for the first time, a woman was appointed the country’s ambassador to Switzerland, and more than 70 women now hold diplomatic posts within the Foreign Ministry.  Also, over 20 women’s organizations are registered in the country.


Ukrainian women are highly educated and have the same access as men to courses and examinations.  In many cases, they have better educational qualifications than men and outnumber men among workers with higher education.   Equal rights of men and women to work are ensured by the country’s legislation.  The Labour Code of Ukraine prohibits employment of women in arduous work, or in harmful or dangerous working conditions.  One example of the development of legislation to eliminate discrimination is the granting to women of the right to be recruited into the military, provided they are fit for service.


Introduction of Reports


Presenting her country’s reports, VALENTYNA DOVZHENKO, Head of the State Committee for Family and Youth Affairs of Ukraine, said that despite the fact that her country was a young State, which had acquired independence only 10 years ago, it was quickly gaining world experience and moving towards the establishment of a truly democratic society.  Aware of the fact that the country still had a rather long way to go towards full gender equality, she said that Ukraine attached great significance to that goal.  In general, it had made good progress in advancing the situation of women, having formed a legal and normative basis for implementing the provisions of the Convention.  However, work still remained to be done to overcome the negative stereotypes, improve the economic situation in the country and advance labour conditions for women.


Both the country’s legislation and national machinery were developing at a good pace, she continued.  But, among the challenges facing the country were economic difficulties, due to transition to market economy, and existing negative gender stereotypes.  Illustrating the changes in the situation of women since the issuance of the reports, she said that her Committee and the Ministry for Family and Youth Affairs had prepared drafts of legislative acts and government decisions aimed at attaining specific socio-economic goals and ensuring women’s human rights.  The country’s Constitution, which was adopted in 1996, contained basic principles for people’s equality and fundamental freedoms.


The Constitution also established State protection for the family, children, motherhood and fatherhood, she said.  In 1997, the Parliament established the post of Ombudsman on Human Rights.  Part of Ukraine’s efforts in implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action was the creation of the national plan on the advancement of women.  A new family code provided for equal rights in family relations and marriage.  In 2001, the President of the country issued a decree on the social status of women aimed at creating equal opportunities in the political life of the country.


In the last five years, there had been a significant increase in women’s social activities, and women’s non-governmental organizations took an active part in the country’s efforts to establish gender equality.  In 10 years of independence, five women’s parties and associations had emerged in the country.  An organized women’s movement had become an integral part of the political life.  Following the latest elections of 2002, the number of women representatives at the local level had increased to 50 per cent, but at a higher level their representation rarely exceeded 10 per cent.  The country’s Parliament was only

5.1 per cent female.  The situation was similar in Ukraine’s central executive bodies.  Thus, women still did not have equal access to decision-making, and the question of special measures for the advancement of women was of real relevance.


In 1999, a draft law was prepared in the country on State guarantees of ensuring equal rights between men and women, she said.  The previous Parliament had not adopted that law, and now it was important to expedite its adoption by the new Parliament, which had started its work in May.


Regarding civil and labour codes, she said that they provided for protection of women based on their physiological needs, in particular, in connection with pregnancy and motherhood.  In this respect, her delegation did not share the Committee’s concern, which had been expressed in 1996, when the country’s previous report had been taken up, that additional social protection for mothers could hurt the status of women, in general.  In the final analysis, women themselves took relevant decisions in that respect.  A large percentage of young women were oriented towards high social status and returned to their work duties before they were obliged to under the law.


She went on to say that special programmes had been prepared to provide economic support to women and assist them in employment as, against the backdrop of the country’s economic difficulties, until recently women had represented the majority of people laid off from work.


Additional State guarantees for employment were also provided for women with children up to the age of six, single mothers and those with disabled children.  They received quotas totalling 5 per cent of the total number of jobs.  For 2001, that quota reached 36,000.  There was a tendency towards a gradual reduction in the proportion of unemployed women from some 73 per cent in 1996 to 48 per cent in 2002.  The Government was also concerned over the issue of equal pay for equal work, for women’s salaries constituted some 73 per cent of men’s pay.


Despite the gap in the level of salaries, women had a higher educational level than men, she said. Girls constituted more than half of university students, and large numbers of women had master’s and doctorate degrees.  At the same time, women in Ukraine took advantage of enhancing their qualification and improving their chances in the market to a much lesser degree than men.


Regarding women’s health, she said that the Constitution of the country provided for free medical services and preventive programmes for women.  Special measures were being taken to protect pregnant mothers.  Despite the fact that the demographic situation in the country remained complicated, in recent years there had been a reduction in the rates of maternal mortality and the number of abortions.  There was also a continued decline in child mortality.  At the same time, birth rates in the country were also falling, as well as the indicators of women’s reproductive health.  To rectify the situation, for 2001 a comprehensive programme of genetic monitoring had been introduced in Ukraine.


Turning to violence against women, she said that in 2001 a law on preventing violence in the family was adopted by the Government, and machinery was being created to prevent such phenomena.  It was important to provide legal assistance and set up shelters for victims of crime.  In connection with the development of international criminal activities related to trafficking in women and children, firm and determined efforts by all countries involved were needed.  Ukraine had acceded to a number of international instruments dealing with the problem and was considering changing its Criminal Code to fight the offence.  In order to deal with the problem, a comprehensive programme had been adopted, which provided a broad range of measures to prosecute the offenders and rehabilitate the victims.


One of the main achievements of Ukraine in the past 10 years had been the maintenance of ethnic peace in the country, she added.  In 1997, the country had signed and ratified a convention on the treatment of minorities, and its programmes dealing with ethnic minorities were a source of pride for the Government.


Experts’ Comments


As the discussion opened, experts noted that Ukraine, as a young State, had the advantage of building non-discriminatory practices into its education and legal systems from scratch.  However, laws in themselves were not enough.  People’s attitudes must also be changed through social, educational and cultural means, which required a committed and tireless effort on the part of the State.


Other experts stressed that the root causes of discrimination, such as poverty, stereotypes and cultural attitudes, needed to be identified to combat indirect discrimination.  There was a tendency to attribute responsibility for discrimination in employment, in the political field, and for violence against women to women themselves, without due attention being paid to cultural, social, economic and political forces, which must be dealt with to eliminate indirect discrimination.


Many of Ukraine’s legal mechanisms, policies and programmes underlined the role of women in public life and could lead to an emphasis on traditional stereotypes, other speakers said.  It was also important to ensure that discrimination did not occur within family circles, that equality was emphasized between the mother and father, for example.


Special measures to encourage gender equality was on Ukraine’s agenda, several experts noted.  Would those measures remedy the gap between women's high level of education and low level of decision-making?


Speakers also stressed that the Government should educate the public, bureaucrats, the legal profession and others about new gender legislation.  The country had still not passed an equal opportunities law.  Efforts should be made to train parliamentarians on the notion of substantive equality between men and women.


Attention was also focused on the Government’s programme on poverty alleviation, and whether women were targeted in terms of percentages.  If not, they would just be part of the larger group and may not receive the assistance they really needed.


Other experts raised the question of men's role in achieving gender equality, since awareness-raising programmes in Ukraine were mainly addressed at women, youth and young children.  The same was true for domestic violence, with no specific measures mentioned about aggressors.  The situation and role of women would not change without a similar change occurring for men.


Country Response


Ms. DOVZHENKO thanked the experts for their constructive remarks and agreed that good laws alone could not eliminate discrimination against women.  While her country had some advanced laws in place, there were still cases of discrimination there.  To really improve the situation, it was particularly important to eliminate negative stereotypes.  Indeed, the gap between the women’s high level of education and their low representation at the decision-making level partially stemmed from those stereotypes.  For that reason, it was important to educate the legislators to convince them of the need to adopt new measures in that respect.


Continuing, she reiterated that under the country’s labour laws, men and women had equal rights, and employers who refused to provide employment, equal opportunities and protection to women were criminally prosecuted.  The law on domestic violence had been only recently adopted, and now measures were being put into place to encourage women to resort to relevant bodies in cases of abuse.  Last year, some 200 cases were prosecuted. 


Regarding national gender machinery, she said that up to 1996 no such bodies had existed in the country.  Following the establishment of the State Ministry on Family and Youth (now State Committee), legislation was being elaborated to improve the status of women.  In preparing the country’s reports, her Ministry had played a coordinating role, and each branch of Government had contributed within its own area of competence.  Non-governmental organizations and members of civil society had also participated in its elaboration.


On the role of mothers and fathers in raising children, she said that both parents had equal rights and responsibilities in that respect.  Under the new family code and the regulations concerning leaves, not only mothers, but also fathers could take advantage of the maternal or paternal leave to take care of children.

The population of the country was well informed about women’s issues, she continued.  However, the high level of women’s education did not correspond to their representation in positions of power.  While it was impossible to attain equality right away, the Government was taking steps to raise women’s self-confidence.  Another source of concern was that women represented the majority of people working in the field of education, for example, but their salaries were significantly lower than those of men in the same field.  New steps were being developed to address such inequalities through mass media and information programmes.  Retraining programmes were also offered to unemployed women.


It was very important for her country to stabilize its economic situation and eliminate poverty, she said.  The Government was taking measures to reduce the number of people living below the poverty line, most of whom were women.  State assistance was being increased to vulnerable groups, including single mothers and the unemployed.


Like all others, her country had customs and traditions, she said, but it was important to eliminate negative attitudes towards women.  Ukraine, however, did not have traditions that promoted violence against women and their oppression.


As for the civil code, she said that it had been adopted in 2001 and transmitted for signature by the President, who had returned it with his amendments to the Parliament.  Currently, it was one of the priority normative acts before that body.


Trafficking in women within the country was punishable under Ukraine’s domestic law, and criminal responsibility for that offence had been recently strengthened.  This year, 90 such cases had been instituted, but only 20 per cent of such cases went to court, for it was difficult to fight against organized groups, which were mostly engaged in such criminal activities.


Regarding sexual exploitation of women, she said that, as an official and as a mother, she was seriously concerned about the situation.  She had recently visited a reintegration centre for victims of trafficking in women and had a frank exchange with the women there.  Most of them had been out of work and gone abroad thinking that they were going to work there in their chosen profession.  The people who forced women into prostitution could be prosecuted under the law, and women could press charges against them.  It was important to disseminate information on the threat.


On the demographic policies of the State, she said that the Government was seriously concerned about recent trends of population ageing and decline in birth rates.  Measures were being taken to encourage families to have a desired number of children, and a national plan had been developed in support of families with children, including single-parent ones.


Administrative and criminal penalties for domestic violence had been introduced, and educational work was being conducted to reduce its incidence.  Among non-governmental organizations’ initiatives was the “16 days without violence” campaign.  Preventive measures were also highly important. 


There should be a higher representation of women in the Government, she continued, for currently there were only three.  The parliamentary elections had not gone beyond the 3 per cent level for women.  She hoped that, in the years to come, women themselves would do everything in their power to rise to positions of power.  From a legal standpoint, they had that opportunity.


Responding to an expert’s comment that, from the statistics presented in the report, much emphasis was placed on punishing prostitutes themselves, and not people responsible for exploiting them, she said that a sentence of one to three years could be imposed on perpetrators who forced women to engage in prostitution.  Criminal responsibility was also envisioned for women systematically engaged in prostitution.  If a woman became a prostitute to feed her children, it was a regrettable situation, and she should be presented with an alternative source of income.


Experts


Besides trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, it was also important to pay attention to other cases of trafficking in people, including trafficking for illegal labour purposes, one expert said.  Also, was there punishment for those who benefited from the services of prostitutes?


The situation in which highly educated women did not have access to positions of power “was begging for special temporary political measures” for the advancement of women, which were envisioned under the Convention, another speaker said.


It was also pointed out that, without women in decision-making positions, it was particularly difficult to advance gender-related decisions.  Experts wondered about the reasons for men’s resistance to the advancement of women and wanted to receive information about the current situation in that respect.


Experts also noted that, according to the report, women were socially active through political parties and associations.  Ukraine was the only European country with such a great number of women’s parties, a speaker said.  What was their role in promoting women’s election to positions of power?  Women were also very active in the social sector, but it seemed that the society was not fully profiting from their contribution.  A deep analysis of the situation was needed.  Special temporary measures could become an important first step in improving the balance.  It was also important to elaborate a strategy to advance women and mobilize women themselves to take a more active role in society.


A major problem identified in the report was not an inadequate number of the legal standards, but the lack of machinery to ensure equal legal representation of women in elected organs.  What had the Government done to change such a situation?  The ministry for women should take a lead in that respect.  It was also important to initiate networking with women in political parties, trade unions, media and research institutions, as well as women parliamentarians and professionals.


Country Response


In response to the questions, Ms. DOVZHENKO explained that Ukraine’s penal code punished individuals who profited through the activities of prostitution.  Those who organized or procured such activities could be fined or imprisoned for a period of one to three years.


As for women in decision-making positions, a high number of women were elected at local levels, but fewer to Parliament.  There was currently a proposal by several national deputies to institute a parliamentary electoral quota of

35 per cent for women, although Parliament had not yet accepted the suggestion.


Experts’ Comments


Regarding women’s health, not enough information had been provided in the report, an expert complained.  Although the economic difficulties and the challenges of the transition period were quite clear, the health situation in the country was alarming.  The rates of maternal and infant mortality and the nutrition conditions were very poor.  While lower than before, the number of abortions was extremely high.  She wanted to receive additional information in that regard.


Another expert echoed concerns regarding the high level of abortions, which were being used as a family-planning method in the country.  The country seemed to misinterpret the meaning of family planning, which should involve prevention of unwanted pregnancy.  In Ukraine, however, abortions were used as an intervention when pregnancy actually occurred.  Repeated abortions could have negative effects on a woman’s health.  Abortions also had a hidden discrimination aspect, for men did not have to go through repeated surgical procedures, like women did.  Accessible, affordable and acceptable contraceptives should be available to Ukrainian women.


At 55, women retired five years earlier than men in Ukraine, an expert said, and women with five or more children could retire at 50.  As a result, at 50, men could still expect promotions, and women were preparing for retirement.  Such a practice negatively affected women’s career development, and a change should be considered.  Was retirement mandatory at those ages?  Did it apply to only limited areas, or to all occupations?  How did early retirement affect the amount of a person’s pension?


Some 8.7 million, or over 53 per cent of the country’s rural population, were women.  How had the recent agrarian reform affected their situation?


Also addressed in the discussion was the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on women’s health.  Questions were asked about alcohol consumption, social insurance, programmes for elderly women, and the situation with HIV/AIDS in relation to women. 


On education, an expert asked if access to education was equal for urban and rural women.  Was it the same for all ethnic groups?


Regarding social protection for pregnant women, an expert said that the rights given to women in this respect should be engineered in such a way so as not to hinder their equality.  Childcare should be not only maternal, but a parental responsibility.  The State needed to prohibit and prevent discrimination, not only on the grounds of motherhood.  Such notions as equal pay, equal promotion, equal conditions of employment and training also needed to be addressed. 


Women’s employment was prohibited in certain sectors, because those sectors were considered dangerous to their health, an expert said.  Under conditions of high unemployment, such provisions needed to be reviewed.


Country Response


In response to further questions from experts, Ms. DOVZHENKO said Ukraine was deeply concerned about women’s health, and future reports would provide more detail on that topic.  She noted that measures taken by the State had achieved a decline in maternal mortality.  Over the past 15 years, perinatal centres had been set up in each city in accordance with the legislation on health.  Pregnant woman had the right to free consultations and services, including medicines.  Locally, medical and other assistance was given to victims of the Chernobyl disaster.


For the year 2001, child mortality in Ukraine had decreased, but was high compared to developed countries, she said.  Children with health problems were mainly children whose mothers had been victims of the Chernobyl disaster.  The country’s budget was insufficient to address those problems, but funding for health care and education has grown over the past few years, due to the improved economic situation.


As for HIV/AIDS, the number of people suffering from that disease was growing, which was a cause of great concern, she said.  The public was being informed about the disease through various means, including sociologists, psychologists and doctors.


There were still a rather high level of abortion in Ukraine, but it was not being used as a method of family planning, she stressed.  The number of abortions had dropped from more than a million per year in 1990 to 408,000 for 2000.  Women were now being provided with more information about, and access to, contraception in both urban and rural areas.  Levels of use stood at 74 per cent for urban women and 67 per cent for rural women.


Regarding medical insurance, the Government was in the process of presenting a law to Parliament to bring in a system of social insurance.  In Ukraine, there was a high rate of well-trained doctors and medical personnel.  Problems of concern included the spread of tuberculosis, and the State had begun a programme to prevent the spread of the disease.


Cancer was another health concern, she said, not only among adults, but children suffering from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster.  The rate of child morbidity had doubled over the past year.  A ministry had been established to assist with the consequences of Chernobyl.  For women who wished to have children, there were now preventive and curative treatments.  Rural women obtained medical care through special ambulatory medical centres.  The Ministry of Health, together with local bodies, was taking measures to ensure better care in those centres.


A new draft law on pensions had been introduced, which provided for improvement on three levels.  The legislation brought in earlier pensions for women and men who were engaged in difficult or hazardous work.  She noted that the pension age was not binding or mandatory.


Regarding the question about women and agriculture, she said all collective farms had become agricultural enterprises through agrarian reform last year. Property shares and land rights had been divided up.  That had provided an opportunity to achieve reasonable results in the agrarian sector, which had now set an objective of producing one ton of grain per inhabitant.  Unfortunately, economic reform in rural areas had not led to subsequent social reforms.  However, the President had signed a decree this year to that effect.  During agrarian reform, most women had taken an active stance.  There were many women farmers now, and information centres had been set up showing how to care for the land.  Women in villages were establishing credit unions and now had the potential to pool their finances.


As for alcoholism, that problem was less prevalent among women than men, although many young women were taking up smoking. Alcoholism was not a threatening health factor for women, but not enough attention was being paid to its abuse.


Experts’ Comments


As the Committee continued the debate, experts inquired about the norms governing divorce, the division of property, and the situation of minorities in the country.


An expert commended the fact that marital rape could be prosecuted under the country’s law.  Ukraine was one of the few countries that recognized that offence, and she wanted to know if any such cases had been prosecuted by the courts there.


Did the prohibition on trafficking in people apply to such activities within the country’s limits? another speaker asked.


Country Response


Ms. DOVZHENKO replied that under the new Ukrainian family code, men and women had equal rights and responsibilities within the family.  People had a right to conclude marriage contracts, but so far few people took advantage of that right.  A married woman had full opportunities to express herself in business.  Men and women entering into marriage remained independent with regard to education and place of work.


All ethnic groups had equal rights and protection under the law, she said.  As for the protection of women’s property rights, any property acquired jointly during marriage was divided equally.  She was not prepared to provide information regarding the number of cases prosecuted for marital rape.

Under Ukraine’s criminal code, actions connected to trafficking in people were punishable, regardless of the place where the crime was committed.  However, additional penalties were also imposed on offenders who took their victims out of the country.


In conclusion, the Committee’s Chairperson, CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, expressed hope that the members of the delegation would share today’s experiences with the Government and civil society of their country.


* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.