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Iryna Salamatsina: Only the state is engaged in gender issues; civil society withdrew itself from it

09.03.2016  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Iryna Salamatsina: Only the state is engaged in gender issues; civil society withdrew itself from it

That’s how we live: with gender equality that isn’t functioning in the country, but with indicators that the international community takes seriously, says the founder of the "Gender route” project.

A year ago, in an interview with "EuroBelarus" the project coordinator of "Global Media Monitoring" from Belarus, the author and initiator of the project "Gender route" Iryna Salamatsina noted that the official Minsk simulates the elimination of gender discrimination in the society - the reality is very different from the picture drawn for the Western partners.

After a year the situation in the sphere of gender equality has not improved; we can rather speak about the appearance of additional alarms, Iryna Salamatsina noted in the talk with the correspondent of the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.

"Thus, we see that the government is trying to refuse available social guarantees to women. For example, I was very confused with the recent proposal of the economist of the Presidential Administration to take away one out of three years women get for maternity leave, - Iryna Salamatsina says. – The motivation seemed to be quite reasonable: let's return women to the labor market, increase the retirement age, etc. But I was a little puzzled with the reference to GDP that has been in that proposal... As a rule, women tend to be employed in the state public sector – an area that doesn’t bring remarkable financial gains and doesn’t produce material product. Whence is the GDP growth taken from? The same economist has recently presented the book "Financial diet." Frankly speaking, it raises the question, why do we link financial diet with the elimination of social benefits for women – the population group, which, in fact, has no guarantee of stability as it is."

As for the presentation of the gender situation in Belarus on the international level, this October the state will report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination at the autumn UN Session. Curiously, the official Minsk should have provided the report at the beginning of 2015, Iryna Salamatsina notes; however, the report wasn’t presented in the required period, and "Belarus was given a chance to do this autumn in accordance with the simplified scheme."

Iryna Salamatsina draws attention to the fact that in the last Belarus Gender Equality Index equaled 0.152, which puts the country on the 28th position among 149 and (2014). And according to the combined indicator of gender equality in 2011, Belarus occupies 65th place among 187 countries. I.e. Belarus has improved its position twice in a short period of time. Besides, Belarus has formally almost realized a 30% representation of women at decision-making level declared in the international documents – there are 29.7% of women in the National Assembly. The House of Representatives of the National Assembly has 30 women-deputies, the majority of them worked in the ​​educational and healthcare spheres before being elected. And the presented figures are highly appreciated by international organizations. Thus, during the conference "Ensuring gender equality in public life", held in Minsk in June 2015, the director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Georg Link said: "When it comes to the OSCE, Belarus shows a good example of women's representation in parliament." According to him, Belarus has demonstrated its involvement in the international standards on gender equality. As Iryna Salamatsina noted, "all this is somewhat speculative because we need to look what women become deputies - it is usually women who have the state support." "On the other hand, I understand the policy of international structures: the state has some indicators of progress to which the international community reacts, as the civil society of Belarus, unfortunately, has no progress with gender agenda," - Iryna Salamatsina stressed.

"It is worth remembering that an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Iryna Vialichka has headed the UN Working Group on complaints about the violations of women's rights. You know, this is serious, - Iryna Salamatsina says. – I.e. the world already recognizes Belarus’ achievements in the gender equality sphere. But I would call that focus on, let’s say, global politics, whereas there is no gender policy inside the country; it is declared but not implemented. Even if only because we haven’t had a single discrimination case in courts, for example, about payment discrimination against women, although the statistics has long ago stated that fact."

"The state is not only the main actor in this sphere, but also the player who still presents certain quantitative indicators to the international community, as no one can present such indicators in the private sector. Look, none of the parties has introduced a gender agenda; there are no gender fractions. The United Civil Party has established a women's organization, but the head of the United Civil Party Anatoly Liabedzka said that the party established this organization for advancing the same general party line. There is no women agenda; this women's structure doesn’t affect the policy within the party itself,"- Iryna Salamatsina assumes.

According to her, a symptom might be the fact that "no woman-representative of the Belarusian civil society was invited to participate in a working session of the OSCE "Tolerance and non-discrimination" within the framework of the Conference on Human Dimension (Warsaw, 21 September - 2 October 2015), despite the apparent focus of the meeting on the analysis of the results of the implementation of international conventions on women's rights. " At a special Belarusian working session, supported by the Visegrad and the Polish Foundation for international solidarity within the frames of this conference, elections in Belarus were discussed: "The participants of the meeting were the opposition leaders and former opposition presidential candidates, who kept demanding non-participation in the elections and their non-recognition. The whole men's club talked about the elections, but no one thought about inviting Tatsiana Karatkevich, who took part in these elections. We can have different opinions about Karatkevich, but it’s quite hard to deny the fact of her participation in the presidential campaign. Therefore, when we see such paradoxes, one can understand why the global structures are guided by the indicators provided by the state, even if it feigns something. And we won’t be able to replace Iryna Vialichka from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by someone from the civil society sector - there are no candidates, no women's policy, no women's issues, no women's agenda, nothing."

"It's sad, but it’s also exciting! When will the opposition and civil society leaders come to understand that the state is playing the trump card, and they are not even involved in cards’ distribution? That’s how we live: with gender equality that isn’t functioning in the country, but with indicators that the international community takes seriously,” – Iryna Salamatsina concludes.

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