For Ukraine’s female soldiers, armed conflict is not the only danger

Close to the frontline in Donbas, Ukraine, 24-year-old Anastasia is a radio station operator, tasked with ensuring that troopers on the entrance are in a position to talk with one another.

Stationed close to the town of Mayorsk, the place a number of troopers have misplaced their lives in latest months, she joined up six years in the past towards the desires of her dad and mom,

“I joined as a result of I needed to. If not me, who?” she requested.

“I’m happy with serving within the army. It’s my goal. I knew that my household wouldn’t prefer it if I joined, so I didn’t inform my mother and simply went to enroll. After that time, there was no turning again.”

Alla Akimova, 38, works within the kitchen getting ready meals for the troopers and determined to hitch to assist out within the battle and be near her husband.

“I was dwelling with the youngsters,” she defined at a army submit close to Zolote. “However they’re all grown up now, and I wish to assist make a distinction right here. I couldn’t go to battle whereas having younger youngsters.”

A complete of 23 p.c of Ukraine’s 250,000-strong military are girls, in accordance with numbers launched by the Ministry of Defence, a quantity that has elevated 15-fold in simply ten years. Round half of them are troopers whereas the opposite half work in civilian help roles.

In 2008, just one,800 girls served within the Ukrainian army, a quantity that rose to 23,000 in 2017, 24,487 in 2018, 27,074 in 2019, and 29,760 girls in 2020.

Unsurprisingly that fast progress is as a result of battle with Russia, which started after Moscow annexed Crimea and supported separatists within the Donbas. However whereas it’s simpler for girls to make their profession within the armed forces than it was once, challenges stay.

A Soviet legacy

“The normal gender roles nonetheless exist, and they’re troublesome to alter. It’s not a single factor, as a result of it’s about traditions,” Hanna Hrytsenko is an unbiased researcher and a part of the Invisible Battalion undertaking in Ukraine, researching girls’s function within the army.

“Individuals are accustomed to a sure life and don’t see that it wants to alter,” she mentioned.

Hrytsenko mentioned that gender roles are a hangover from the Soviet period when the demographic priorities of the state had been to encourage girls to give attention to childbirth and child-rearing. Consequently, girls are typically pushed into medical or workplace work, Hrytsenko mentioned.

“However issues are slowly altering,” she added.

Anastasia needs to be on the frontline – however she expects it to be a problem.

“There are issues that girls can’t so simply be allowed to do, like being on the frontline. Not all girls are allowed to go there as a result of numerous males don’t prefer it,” she mentioned.

It’s not all the time the battle that makes the frontline harmful for girls. With the Invisible Battalion undertaking, Hrytsenko has documented instances of sexual harassment that embrace namecalling, teasing, and touching – but additionally incidents of rape of feminine troopers by their male colleagues.

The issue is more likely to be an amazing deal extra widespread than official statistics counsel, she mentioned, with many victims reluctant to return ahead.

“Girls can solely defend themselves bodily in the intervening time or depart the military when one thing occurs,” Hrytsenko mentioned.

“Though hundreds of ladies are working within the military, this conservative and patriarchic system persists. The system is commonly not designed to care for girls, who typically have nowhere to go together with their complaints.”


Iryna Suslova, the chief of the ladies’s motion «ZA MAJBUTNE» a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, the place she chairs the subcommittee on gender equality and discrimination, believes that the state of affairs has improved over time.

“Till 5 years in the past, girls […] couldn’t be tankers, snipers, take part in sabotage and reconnaissance teams, work within the infantry,” Suslova mentioned.

However she says combatting sexual violence stays the largest problem, and never simply in Ukraine.

“This drawback is quite common all around the world and in nations the place there are army conflicts. Sadly, Ukraine isn’t any exception. It’s essential to arrange hotlines, create traces of belief, work, examine and prosecute, which sadly isn’t the case now, although such instances exist. They’re public, however the instances are usually not very well-investigated.”

Army medic Iryna Bazykina is without doubt one of the few who has come ahead within the media and advised of her expertise. She not too long ago advised Radio Freedom that after she requested to go to the frontline a commander requested her to return to his dwelling to debate her future.

There, she claimed, he attacked her. Bazykina mentioned the army tried to stop her from submitting a case, and when she did, it was closed “for inadequate proof.”

Attempting to alter issues

Victoria Arnautova, an adviser to the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on gender points, commented in March on claims about rape within the Ukrainian military, saying that the federal government is growing worldwide mechanisms to fight harassment.

“We’re learning the laws, analysing inside paperwork, how greatest to develop this mechanism, which would come with methods to file complaints, defend the rights of contributors within the course of.

“It’s essential to launch such mechanisms as confidentiality and anonymity, the flexibility to think about instances with out publicity. It is a very stigmatised space not just for the armed forces but additionally for the entire society,” Victoria Arnautova advised Radio Freedom.

In March, Lyubov Humeniuk, Chief Specialist of the Division of Army Training, Science, Social and Humanitarian Coverage of the Ministry of Defence, mentioned that the ministry is engaged on making extra areas accessible to the ladies within the army.

“There are restrictions on entry to officer positions within the half that legally protects the reproductive operate of ladies. These are positions associated to the usage of explosives, toxic substances, diving work, firefighting, in addition to submarines and floor ships, excluding positions of ethical, psychological, and medical help, in addition to particular person positions in Particular Forces. At the moment, work is underway to open positions for girls servicemen in these items,” she mentioned, in accordance with Ukrinform.

Euronews contacted the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine for remark however no response had been acquired on the time of publication.

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