UKRAINE: Why female soldiers will march in high heels at 30th independence anniversary parade

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Female soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces under drills this week ahead of the country's 30th Independence anniversary; Courtesy Photo

Women from the Ukrainian armed forces will march in high heels at a parade during celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union on August 24 – the defense ministry’s official news agency, published on Thursday.

The female soldiers have been training twice a day to master the steps and are progressing well, Major Eugene Balabushka told the news agency -Army Inform. Balabushka confirmed the plan to wear high heels during the parade.

However, the decision to march in high heels angered a number of lawmakers airing criticism after local media picked up images published by the defense ministry -CNN reported on Tuesday.

Elena Kondratyuk, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, joined members of parliament from the “Equal Opportunities” cross-party group to call on defense minister Andrei Taran to reevaluate the decision to make female soldiers wear heels while marching.

Olga Stefanishina, vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine -Marina Lazebnaya, minister of social policy -Yulia Laputina, minister for veterans’ affairs and Yekaterina Levchenko, government envoy for gender policy, signed a joint statement criticizing the decision.

“Shoes with heels are incompatible with the combat capability of soldiers, and a ‘Prussian’ step on a parade in such shoes is a deliberate harm to the health of soldiers,” reads the statement, posted on Stefanishina’s Facebook page on Friday.

There are 57,000 women serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, according to the post, and the country is introducing NATO standards, under which the principle of equality of rights and obligations of servicemen, regardless of gender, applies unconditionally.

Ivanna Medvid, a cadet at the Military Institute of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev, has been training for more than a month. “Today, for the first time, training takes place in high-heeled shoes,” she told Army Inform. “It’s a little harder than in boots, but we try.”

In response to the criticism, the defense ministry uploaded a series of pictures to Facebook of female soldiers from other armies wearing high heels.

But Stefanishina and the cosignatories of her statement pointed out that while the armies of some NATO member countries issue high heels to women as part of their dress uniform, they are not worn while marching in parades.

The officials called on the ministry to replace the high-heeled shoes, appoint a gender adviser and carry out a survey of women in the security and defense sector to find out how they feel about working conditions, including their uniforms.

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