Social Issues

High heels scandal conceals a wider problem of sexism in Ukraine army

By Olga Tokariuk

Kiev, Jul 6 (EFE).- Institutional sexism in Ukraine’s military has been the subject of intense debate in recent days following the publication of images showing female cadets marching in high heels.

The images of the female cadets practising for the Independence Day parade next month sparked outrage in Ukraine and the story made international headlines.

“Today was our first rehearsal in high-heeled shoes. It is a little bit more difficult than in military boots, but we are doing our best,” participant Ivanna Medvid was quoted as saying in a ministry report, a seemingly lukewarm defense of the footwear.

In a bid to justify its actions, the defense ministry released a video on July 3, showing young female cadets saluting the minister, Andrii Taran, and saying, in unison, that they liked the uniform.

It was reminiscent of the Soviet era and inappropriate for a country struggling to align itself with NATO military standards, according to Olga Reshetilova, coordinator at the Media Initiative for Human Rights, an NGO campaigning for human rights in the military.

“It is obvious in this video that women cannot speak freely in the presence of their superior.” says Reshetilova.

For her, this video and the situation as a whole is a metaphor of a wider problem with attitude to women in the Ukrainian army, who are still struggling to get equal rights with their male colleagues.

Ukraine has been on course to modernize its armed forces according to NATO standards since 2014.

It has the third-largest army in Europe with 255,000 active personnel, and its military is considered one of the most combat-ready in Europe, according to Global Firepower ranking.

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