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“People who defend our country in the east, hang on!” "We bow low to our courageous men who are fighting to ensure that their wives and children sleep peacefully." "The best sons perish in this war." These are quotes from speeches of politicians, media materials and simply from everyday conversations. When it comes to conflicts, wars, peacekeeping missions, we subconsciously think about men. Women-soldiers, as a rule, are ignored.
According to the official data of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, as of April 2017, 53,707 women are serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Of these, 21,363 servicewomen (including 3,209 officers, 4,692 persons of sergeants, sergeants, 12,929 soldiers, 533 cadets) and 32,344 civilian personnel.
You will say this is just statistics, which absolutely does not reflect the direct participation of the average woman in daily confrontations on the front line with the average militant who (maybe) can also be a woman. About 10,000 women are serving in military units of the fighting force, of whom 639 are officers. As of the end of May 2017, 5,287 women received the status of a combatant, who participated in Donbas war. The status of the "participant" is one thing, but state and non-state rewards for certain actions in the war zone are somewhat different. Again, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, 1,857 women were awarded during the time of Donbas conflict, 84 of them have got state awards (3 posthumously); marks of distinction of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine - 507 people; signs of distinction of the Chief of the General Staff - Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – 1,266 people.
Three dead women, who were awarded posthumously for their participation in the war. Did you know about them? Have you heard their stories? Do you know their motivation?
"Taking into account the experience of conducting ATO (Anti-terrorist Operation – Ed.) in the east of the country, during which a certain number of female servicemen practically proved their ability to occupy military posts, with the aim of eliminating discriminatory norms, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine amended the order of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine No. 27.05.2014, 337, which provides for a significant expansion of the list of military posts for women servicemen," the Defense Ministry said in response to my request. What does this mean? A certain list of Military positions is opened to women (shooters, snipers, mortar men, scouts, etc.) They do not need to run to combat missions and at the same time be a cook or someone else. But women still cannot occupy a huge number of posts:
- work related to the use of explosive and poisonous substances, diving;
- works related to direct extinguishing of fires; all posts on submarines and surface ships (except for posts of medical and moral-psychological support);
- separate posts in special purpose units.
To outline the general picture, why women are much less likely to go to war, I interviewed women of different ages, status, male military personnel, combat and non-combat soldiers. The most common reason was a stereotypical society and social roles "mother-woman" and “man-defender-hunter”.
"At the beginning of the war, for example, a woman had to try very hard to get to the front. It was necessary to prove to the direct (and sometimes to the highest command) the seriousness of the intentions. In the volunteer battalions, it was easier, but at first glance only. At the time of the first rotation, up to ten women were registered in the ATO zone at the time of the first rotation, but only I was taken to the first rotation. In fact, I did not have much to show on the first rotation. I was just fulfilling the orders, and had only a few fighting trips," says sniper Amina Okueva.
Marusya Zvirobi, an instructor who prepares fighters for the war, believes that "for a woman, it is unusual to fight, she has a different nature. There are some cases that force a woman to become defensive, on the whole this is not the norm," she says. However, in the same interview, he says that "if a person is useful in defense and wants to help, sex or age does not matter."
Smart, gentle lady? Prove it. You are already in the unit. And, probably, in the ATO zone. And even, perhaps, on the front line. Very revealing is the story of Oksana Chorna, a woman who for a long time volunteered, but then went to serve as a military medic at the front line.
"I have faced discrimination every day, and every time I had to prove that I am not a stupid young lady who decided to tickle my nerves, that my decision is conscious and I fully accept the possible consequences. The most frequent expressions are: "You are a woman, so you will not do this and that," and at the same time "First of all, you are a soldier, not a woman, so go and do it." And these contradictory statements often coexist in one phrase.
Interesting and dangerous tasks you have to fulfill with scandals and threats. And only having proved yourself as a person who has completed the assignment twenty or thirty times, you can expect that you will not be pushed away and will be allowed to work.
Then there were more and more trips, more and more confidence. And already during the second year of the war, I could expect that I would just be awakened at night and said “There is one wounded man. Drive to the place without headlights." Although some new task still had to be negotiated. So it was, for example, with the exchange of the dead. You are not going, that is all. You are a woman, so you will not go. And then the commander, in spite of the murmurings of his subordinates, said: "Well, ok, go." Then, during subsequent exchanges, I was simply told that it was necessary to be there and there."
A woman can enter military service on contract, until she turns 40 years old, men - up to 45-60 years, depending on the military rank. The age limit for women is 50 years, for men - 60-65 years, depending on the rank.
For women, there are numerous restrictions on the appointment of a daily outfit, sending on a business trip and conducting military charges.
Here is how it is written in the Charter of Internal Service of the Supreme Armed Forces:
"Servicemen-women, as a rule, are not appointed to the composition of the daily outfit. Serving women, depending on their military rank and position, might, in case of necessity, be appoint as a paramedic (sanitary instructor), officer, a canteen worker, a messenger, dormitory female hostel worker, in compliance with the law."
And, for example, in the annex of the same statute, women are singled out in a separate category:
"Interrogation of each category of servicemen (rank and file, sergeant staff, staff of ensigns and warrant officers, female servicemen) is held separately. Interrogation of officers is carried out by posts - commanders of platoons, battalions and the persons equal to them (separately). Deputy commanders are interviewed separately from their commanders, and the officers of the unit are separate from the officers of the units."
Military psychologist Oksana Belska, who works with combat units right on the front line, in particular during the clashes, told her vision of the biggest gender-related problems in the army and suggested that more women would aspire to serve in the army:
"Form. A guaranteed decent social package, like that of men, plus additional benefits for mothers with children, single mothers (kindergartens, higher education institutions, guaranteed benefits of payment and benefits for admission)."
However, I note that in the Ukrainian Armed Forces men, like women, have the right to go to the decree. The contract with the serviceman is suspended, but with the preservation of the workplace.
The Ministry of Defense does not have gender policy programs as such, since the concept of the State Social Program for the Equal Rights and Opportunities of Women and Men for the period up to 2021 is currently being worked out by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine. But there is a National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution #1325 "Women, Peace, Security" for the period until 2020, approved by the Cabinet.
In April of last year, a working group was set up, which, in accordance with this resolution, would improve laws taking into account gender issues, work with the personnel of the Armed Forces, and teach them about "gender aware". Last year there was very noisy and hot news that the minister will have a gender advisor. However, this idea has not yet been implemented, although the person is determined. "The question of introducing the post of adviser to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine on gender issues is currently being worked out," the Ministry of Defense replied.
The expert on gender Olena Suslova, who together with her team helps reform the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, highlighted the top 5 problems that prevent lobbying of gender in departments:
- Resistance of middle-level officials, who explain their unwillingness to do something with secrecy, high state interests, political pressure, and the like, and the problem is simply that the fifth point is tightly stuck to the chair.
- People who impede the reform of the army are part of a society in which there are also a lot of people who do not want these changes, accuse others in everything, they look for the guilty outside of themselves.
- it’s easier to build a new one than to repair an old one, especially on a rotten foundation.
- Serious reforms cannot be done quickly, one must be persistent and patient.
- We have already done a lot, and there will be even more - we need realistic optimism!
Training Center for Peacekeeping in Hungary. Offices of Ukraine, China and Pakistan
Here there should be a huge paragraph about the international experience of women carrying service, their involvement in peacekeeping missions, the practice of the armies of the developed countries, etc. And so it is clear, we are behind those progressive practices. Not only in gender issues. However, it is about how to do better and more justly.
When will the first women-generals appear?
- We should overcome gender stereotypes and erase social roles. A woman can serve on a par with a man, which has been repeatedly proven. A man's life is as valuable as a woman’s one. The death of both is equally tragic.
- We should change the legislation, taking into account gender characteristics.
- We should cancel the list of prohibited posts.
- Create equal benefits.
- We introduce feminites.
"What I would like to improve," says the spokesman for the 36th Marine Corps Brigade of the Supreme Allied Forces, Olexandra Bessmertna, "is probably the level of selection for contract servicemen of military servicemen. I mean qualitatively, not quantitatively. That the woman who goes to serve, should be well motivated, aspired to something, but this again depends on each of us personally. In the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the majority should stop considering a woman in uniform as beautiful exception... Yes, someone said that "our strength is in our weakness"... but in conditions of the formation of the modern Ukrainian army, the escalation of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine, weakness is not the place!"