The Input of the Judiciary in Ensuring Gender Equality as the Subject of the Rule of Law Donors and Implementers Meeting

On March 3, 2021, donors and implementers of the international technical aid projects operating in the Rule of Law area participated at a regular online coordination meeting organized by the USAID, where they discussed how to implement gender equality in judiciary activities and a gender-sensitive approach in administering justice.

For many years, USAID has supported initiatives in Ukraine to ensure equal access for women and men to justice, the judgeship, and administrative positions in the judiciary through the introduction of a gender-sensitive, stereotype-free approach into routine practice.

The speakers invited by the USAID New Justice Program shared their views on these issues: Inna Plakhtiy, Member of the Council of Judges of Ukraine (COJ), Judge of the Lutsk City District Court of Volyn region, Khrystyna Kit, Lawyer, Head of the Ukrainian Women Lawyers Association “YurFem”, and Lyudmila Chernyavska, Gender Policy and Judicial Administration Coordinator for the Canadian-Ukrainian Support to Judicial Reform Project. In particular, the participants discussed the efforts undertaken by the Council of Judges of Ukraine to strengthen gender sensitivity issue within the justice system, guide the judiciary policy in this area, and update the Gender Sensitivity Index in the judiciary activities, that was developed in 2018, initiated by the COJ and supported by USAID, as well as the Support to Judicial Reform Project’s activities targeted at integrating gender approach in judicial administration.

As Inna Plakhtiy said in her presentation, the COJ resolution “On Ensuring Equal Rights for Men and Women” of 2016 is not fully implemented at present, as the types of gender-sensitive cases to be monitored via the collected statistics still need to be identified. For criminal cases, it is advisable to introduce data by gender of individuals on whom restrictive measures have been imposed, including the types of these measures. In administrative cases, monitoring is carried out based on the gender of individuals who have been prosecuted; however, it is not carried out by types of offenses. In civil cases, monitoring is based on the gender of the plaintiff and the adopted child, but not on the types of claims. Judge Plakhtiy also noted that most women are prosecuted for non-compliance with parental responsibilities, although both parents are equally vested with these responsibilities, so monitoring the gender of offenders is mandatory.

The Gender Sensitivity Index is designed to measure the progress of integration into the justice system of the principle of equal opportunities, rights, and responsibilities of women and men. Its updated version is planned to be discussed with representatives of key judicial institutions in the near future. The Index includes components such as leadership and the formation of a gender-balanced judiciary; gender aspects in developing training programs for judges and court staff; administration of justice based on a gender-sensitive approach; and monitoring data in the process of justice administration in cases related to gender discrimination. USAID New Justice Program Expert Khrystyna Kit pointed out in her presentation that for a qualitative analysis of the situation involving gender-based violence, it is necessary to collect data on the age and gender of victims and perpetrators, the relationship between them, the type of violence, and the geography of offenses.

Following the introduction of the Index, the State Judicial Administration started collecting statistics on the ratio of women to men in the judiciary. Although there are positive trends, if one compares the number of women and men chairing local and appellate courts, there is still a significant disparity. At the same time, women significantly prevail among the court staff”, stated Khrystyna Kit during the presentation.

The meeting ended with a speech by Lyudmyla Chernyavska, Gender Policy and Judicial Administration Coordinator for the Canadian-Ukrainian Support to Judicial Reform Project. Lyudmyla in her presentation spoke about the comprehensive support the Project provides to Ukrainian counterparts through conducting a gender audit and developing a Gender Equality Strategy for the State Judicial Administration; providing gender sensitivity training for judges, court spokespersons, and court security service.

The participants of the meeting agreed on the need for gender sensitivity training for members of the judiciary and judicial self-government, as well as the establishment of a standing working group on gender issues within the judiciary.

When drawing conclusions, Uliana Pashynna, USAID New Justice Program Legal Advisor, noted that it is also extremely important to conduct outreach activities among citizens, as gender equality is a guarantee of justice, security, and economic well-being for the whole society.