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Home » Gender News, Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus

Women in Ukrainian Politics

Submitted by on March 9, 2012 – 9:55 pm 6 Comments |  
As the world celebrated Women’s Day on March 8, the issue of equal rights for women was once more brought to the fore. Among the countries where this holiday is especially popular – since the Soviet times – is Ukraine, but the recently published figures present a rather bleak picture of the role of women in Ukraine’s political scene. The representation of women in Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, is lower than in similar institutions in Arab countries, report several Ukrainian news agencies. Among the 450 Ukrainian parliamentarians, only 36 (8%) are female. According to the figures presented by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the average parliamentary representation of women in Europe is 22.3%, in Arab countries – 10.7%. The European Union country with the lowest figure is Romania (11%). Worldwide, the number of female legislators has grown in the last decade from 14% to 19.5%, but this figure is still far from the level recommended by the UN (30%). Women are best represented in the legislature is Andorra, a parliamentary co-principality in which the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell (Catalonia, Spain) serve as co-princes. Exactly half of the members in the General Council, as Andorra’s parliament is known, are women. Sweden and South Africa are close behind, with about 45% female legislative representation. Some countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Belize, and Nauru, have no female members in legislative organs at all.

The more general measures of women’s equality, such as the Gender Equality Index, published by Social Watch, present an equally gloomy picture of the role of women in Ukraine. This index takes into account the ratio of male to female students at all levels of the education system, salary and unemployment levels, as well as the proportion of women among highly trained professionals, in upper management, and in political institutions. Altogether, 154 countries are listed in this ranking. The top of the list is occupied solidly by Nordic countries: Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark. The countries at the bottom of the ranking include Niger, Chad, Yemen, and Afghanistan. United States is ranked at number 50, while Russia comes in at the 31st spot. Ukraine’s ranking at 64th place puts it between Peru and Belize. As can be seen from the graph above, representing the proportion of women at different levels of government in Ukraine (from left to right: village, city, district, region, Parliament), the higher the level of government, the less well are women represented. A recent article in NikVesti blames the under-representation of women on the need for women to balance career and family. According to the author, “not all among even the most ambitious women are prepared to sacrifice their personal and family lives for politics and serving the society at large”. The only woman who reached the top of Ukraine’s political ladder is the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Though Ukrainian women are under-represented in the country’s parliament, the first female minister has joined the Ukrainian cabinet in February, two years since the present cabinet was first formed. President Viktor Yanukovich has named Raisa Bogatyreva as the next Minister of Healthcare, replacing a man, Alexander Anischenko, who served for less than a year. Ms. Bogatyreva is not just a woman, but a gynecologist; according to, she personally asked the president to be appointed to this post, “so I can do what I know, what I love”, she said. She is expected to spearhead the country’s much-needed comprehensive healthcare reform. According to the former minister Anischenko, Ukraine is currently experiencing a shortage of some 50,000 doctors; emergency services are practically non-existent; and outpatient clinics are severely under-funded.

Update: Two recent articles in The Economist discuss two additional measures of women’s place in society around the world: Women’s economic opportunity index (the U.S. is in 14th place, but 2% down from last year) and women’s views on domestic violence (in Ukraine, less than 10% of women think that under any circumstances a husband is justified in hitting his wife).

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  • Igor Solunskiy

    I think the statistic is very clear and unsurprising: women are wider represented in the peaceful countries with socially-oriented economics, on the bottom are the countries in constant civil war, — and the countries with “free market” economics are in the middle. Which only prove my suspicion that “free market” (how it’s understood by “right-wingers”) is a pure Floridian sublimation of war. (The last statement was a kind of joke) :) 

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for your thought-provoking comments! I like your explanation of the hierarchy, although I’d have to see the full list to know if there are any exceptions to the pattern that you describe. As for your last point, even if meant half-jokingly, there may be something to it!

      • Igor Solunskiy

        I am glad that my futile fantasies may became of any use for you. I still awaiting for your enlightening comments on my question about demic atlas. Thank you for the great job with GeoCurrent — it became of one of my favorite reading.

        • Asya Pereltsvaig

          Thank you! I am pleased to hear that you enjoy reading our site! We are moving on to Siberia soon, so perhaps you will have more to say about it… When it comes to the Gender Equality Index, it would be interesting to see where Israel places — want to take a guess? I haven’t checked yet. As for your comments on the demic atlas, they are very interesting indeed, but I will let Martin W. Lewis answer that, as the demic atlas was his project, before I joined GeoCurrents.

  • Pingback: Sexist Remarks by Ukrainian Politicians « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents

  • gkhinduatheist

    “In Ukraine, less than 10% of women think that under any circumstances a husband is justified in hitting his wife)”

    Hope the survey would’ve also found out the proportion of women who think that under any circumstances a wife is justified in hitting her husband!

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      As far as I can tell, husband-beating does not appear to be as much of a problem in Ukraine as wife-beating. And yes, that sentence in the post is rather clumsy, thanks for drawing my attention to it.