Gender discrimination in Ukraine - how to overcome?
Social responsibility and legislative initiatives as tools to protect women's rights
On March 23 a conference "Through self-regulation and social responsibility to the approval of non-discrimination" was held in Kyiv, Ukraine. International event was attended by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden to Ukraine Andreas von Beckerath, Ukraine’s MPs Viktoria Siumar, Uliana Feshchuk and Svetlana Zalishchuk, international expert from Belgium Dominique Leyl and other members working in media and advertising sphere of Ukraine. They discussed the situation with gender equality and also the importance of legislative and social initiatives related to gender issue in Ukraine.
Andreas von Beckerath, Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine, comparing gender situation in Ukraine and Sweden:
People usually think that gender equality concerns women. It is good for women, but also good for men. This issue and its difficulties are related to all society, not only to a part of it.
Speaking about woman rights in Sweden. There are no quotas for women in our Parliament, but 50% of our MPs are women. It’s not the result of legislation – it’s a result of working with people’s attitudes for such a long time.
Women present 50% of population. They need to participate in every discussion. Yes, Ukraine should provide the relevant legislation, in particular, to ratify the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence). But also the media has a particular responsibility in all of this, and social initiatives of Ukrainian citizens can have asignificant impact on the media.
Viktoria Siumar, Head of the Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy of Ukraine, about the status of women in Ukrainian politics:
Discrimination is a kind of intolerance. It’s the phenomenon of the same order as sexual, ethnic and religious intolerance. And our media which are strongly influencing public opinion, are responsible for it. If journalists notice a woman who occupies a high position, they write “We clearly understand how she got there –surely men helped her”.
Ukrainian commercials show women as intellectually undeveloped individuals always waiting for men to help them, to explain simple things to them, to support them. When we try to deal with such problem, the greatest resistance we usually get from the media editors. They need to increase the number of readers and viewers, to have the bigger audience. They do not want to conquer with men's opinions about the place of women, and this place is not on a par with men.
Uliana Feshchuk, Deputy Head of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting about Ukrainian laws on gender discrimination:
There are 2 articles about gender non-discrimination that National Council on Television and Radio planned to introduce to the Broadcasting Code of Ukraine. Heads of TV channels and radio stations don’t want to sign these articles, they don’t agree. They signed only those parts on avoiding hate speech, fairness, impartiality and balancing information to avoid dissemination of false and unreliable information, privacy, the right to reply, avoiding programs that can justify or encourage the crime and violence.
The reason is that the laws on the non-discrimination would significantly reduce the number of popular programs’ topics and TV-images. Viewers satisfied with what they see on TV (at least they don’t protest), while channel managers are satisfied with the number of their audience.
Dominic Lyle, Director General of the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA), Brussels – on representation of women in advertising:
Sometimes it’s no relevance between company’s product and manner of advertising, image and hero. Especially in situations when companies try to sell their goods using women images – their naked bodies, or dressed in provocative clothes, or taking seductive poses. They try to sell women’s appearance instead of product, using gender-, age-, race- and sex discrimination methods.
Gender stereotyping and sexualizing ads often cause viewers complaints and product buyers are often able to protest against such a company. It is one of the levers, which regulates the global advertising market, although there are also certain legislative initiatives there. They differ from country to country, but as we learned from the experience, the advertising market is capable of regulating itself. Self-regulation is more flexible and faster than legislative regulation.
Summing up, the level of gender discrimination in Ukraine is quite high. Ukrainian society needs implementation of gender equality policies in the media and advertising, which should include:
1) adequate reflection of the presence of women in various spheres of public life;
2) use of non-sexist and non-discriminatory language (development of special allowances for journalists);
3) "Code of conduct" in the formation of broadcast content, aimed at ensuring the implementation of the principle of gender equality;
4) cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations (social advertising campaign for the prevention of gender-based violence);
5) the establishment of the public committee to control the adaptation of broadcasting content to the provisions of the law on gender equality;
Ukrainians should welcome any social initiatives aimed at countering discrimination. And as long as Ukrainian media and advertising market are not self-regulating in an appropriate level in comparison with other European countries, authorities should not abandon legal methods at the same time with socio-educational to remedy the situation.There are local funds and committees in Ukraine fighting against gender discrimination in politics and media, as well as helping women to defend their rights. And another important step for our country on its European integration path is the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. It affirms the rights of women, aims at protecting them from all forms of violence, including domestic violence by which women are affected above average (forced marriage, genital mutilation, stalking, physical and psychological violence, as well as sexual violence, etc.).
The Convention was opened for signature on 11 May 2011 and entered into force on 1 August, 2014. Ukraine signed it on November 7, 2011 but not yet ratified. First of all, we need the adaptation of national legislation to the provisions of this Convention. To ensure its work it is necessary to make changes in nearly 18 laws and codes, as well as to consider the possibility of further funding.
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