A screenshot from the Ukrainian documentary Women Of War
The struggles of Ukrainian women who fight at the front lines in Donbas have been heard. Revolutionary amendments on the Decree of the Ministry of Defense #337 are going to be published on June 29, said representative of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Vitaliy Golota.
According to him, women will be able to hold positions of snipers, intelligence officers, and commanders of military hardware. This is way more compared to the current list of positions for women in the army. So far officially they can only work as nurses, secretaries, accountants, seamstresses, and cooks.
However, women’s tasks in the Ukrainian Army were never limited by this list. Quite often they performed the same duties as men but did not receive the same rights and state support, including when they come back from war. Also, Ukrainian women face a number of obstacles to entering the army as volunteers. Which means that those who succeed are highly motivated to serve for Ukraine. Sometimes their motivation is much higher than men’s.
According to data released by the Ministry of Defense in March 2016, there are 17,000 women soldiers in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including 2,200 officers. Another 33,000 are working at positions of civil servants and employees of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. More than 1,500 were performing tasks in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Zone.
The activists from the initiative Invisible Battalion conducted a study on the role of Ukrainian women in the ATO and were looking of ways to integrate them as soldiers. Activists also have repeatedly pointed at the violation of women’s rights in the army defined by Ukrainian old legislation.
As described by the coordinator of the Invisible Battalion Mariya Berlinska, “an impregnable reinforced concrete wall of the state system” was broken on June 23.
“I started the Invisible Battalion a year ago. Motley generals and deputies have told me during the whole year that it is impossible. The head of the UN Women foundation Anastasiya Divinskaya at the joint conference of NATO after my speech said that it has happened. The historical changes in the Ukrainian Army. We opened the opportunity to women to serve to the utmost,” wrote Berlinska at her Facebook page. According to her, now female soldiers will not be able to serve only in Air Landing Troops.
However, colonel Golota does not share the optimism of the defenders of the rights of women soldiers.
“Now women can be appointed to positions which are related to a higher risk not only according to their desire. There also will be a moment when they will be appointed according to decree. Fighters for womens right make a big mistake when think that principles of the labor rights apply to soldiering,” he said in an interview to Hromadske Radio.
When asked about the guarantees provided to women who are preparing for childbirth, he said that female soldiers have the same rights which are foreseen by the legislation on the social protection for women, protection of maternity and childhood.“ In the case of a special period (the law on mobilization and special preparations), all women who have children under 18 can be out of soldiering if they will not want to continue it. If such a period is announced, all women who want to continue their soldiering should sign a statement confirming their choice, by it stating that family becomes secondary for them.”
The new legislation will need time to be implemented. Meanwhile, women continue facing old problems in the army: the lack of needed uniform sizes, lack of gynecologists, the lack of free access to sergeant schools.