Gender Equality in Belarus
Flag of Belarus
|Population (in Mil.)||9.47|
|Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB)||55.13|
|Sex Ratio (m/f)||0.87|
|Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)||1.178|
|Income Ratio (f/m)||0.63|
|Literacy Ratio (f/m)||1|
|Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m)||1.39|
|Women in Parliament (in %)||29.1|
|Human Development Index||65/169|
|Social Institutions and Gender Index||16/86|
|Gender Inequality Index||- /138|
|Gender Equity Index||64/157|
|Women’s Economic Opportunity Index||- /113|
|Global Gender Gap Index||- /134|
|More information on variables|
In Belarus, the life expectancy at birth is 70 years for both sexes, females have a higher life expectancy average rate with 76 years, whereas men can expect an average of 64 years. Thus, there is a gender difference in life expectancy; men in Belarus have a slightly lower life expectancy compared to the global average of 66 years for men and 71 years for women. The adult mortality rate (per 1000 adults between 15-59 years) remains high with 221 in contrast to the global average of 176. The maternal mortality ratio is significlantly low with 15 deaths per 100000 live births, which is comparably low when considering the global average of 260 deaths. The under-5 mortality rate has decreased profoundly from 1990 to today, and is stated as 12 deaths per 1000 live births, which includes both sexes and is below the gloal average of 60 deaths. Prevalence of HIV occurs at 3 cases per 1000 adults aged from 15-49 years, which is lower than the average of 8 cases globally. The prevalence of tuberculosis is also significantly lower with 58 cases per 10000 of the population, coompared to 201 cases as the global average. Tobacco smoking is certainly higher among men with 64,4% of 15+ years olds being a regular smoker and 21,6% of women smoking regularly. 19,7% of the male adult 20+ population and 26,4% of females are considered to suffer from obesity.
Having previously formed part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Belarus gained independence in 1991. Aleksandr Lukashenka became president in 1994, and has remained in power since then, gradually consolidating his control over the country. Belarus was one of the most prosperous republics of the USSR, but has suffered economic decline since then, and the economy is still primarily based on the Soviet model. Belarus is classed as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank. Belarus retains close economic and political ties with Russia, and is heavily reliant on subsidized fuel supplies from Russia. The dominant religion is Orthodox Christianity.
Belarus has not seen the same level of economic and political upheaval as other former Soviet republics, meaning that the changes to women’s lives over the past 20 years have been less drastic than elsewhere in the region. Nevertheless, women in Belarus face discrimination on account of their gender in employment and in wider society, restrictions on their right to civic and political participation, and gender-based violence (which is not adequately addressed). National Plans of Action on gender equality implemented between 1996 and 2000, 2001 and 2005, and 2008-2010 were poorly resourced and given a low public profile, and have had limited impact on addressing gender inequality, according to the 2010 shadow report to the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). According to this report, this is indicative of a wider lack of interest in, and commitment to, addressing gender inequality on the part of the Belarusian government. Article 22 of the Belarusian Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law. As part of the Soviet Union, Belarus ratified the Convention on all forms of Discrimination Against women in 1981. The country then went on to ratify the optional Protocol referring to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2004. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe and so has not ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2011 was 0.756, placing it in 65th place out of a total of 187 countries. UNDP does not provide a score for Belarus’ under its gender inequality index, and the country is also not ranked under the Global Gender Gap Index.
Discriminatory Family Code
Amendments in 2006 to the Marriage and Family Code set 18 years as the legal age at which both men and women can marry, although this can be lowered by a maximum of three years in the case of pregnancy or if the person concerned has reached full legal capacity. Up-to-date figures are not available, but a 2004 United Nations report based on data from 1999 estimated that 6.3% of girls in Belarus aged 15 to 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. Within the country’s Roma community, it is reported that girls sometimes marry at 14, and boys at 16, if they have their parents’ consent. The Marriage and Family Code, article 12, states that marriage is a voluntary union of a man and a woman which implies that marriage is defined as monogamous only. There are no reports that polygamy is practiced in Belarus. The Constitution and the Marriage Code stipulate that within marriage, both spouses have equal rights, that parental authority is exercised equally by both spouses and that both parents have the same rights and responsibilities in relation to their children. Article 75 of the Marriage Code emphasises, for example, that parents are jointly responsible for their children’s physical, mental and moral development, their health, their upbringing and their preparation for independent life in society. This extends to divorce, in regard to the division of property and ongoing responsibility for children’s upkeep. Belarusian women have the same rights as Belarusian men to pass citizenship onto their children.
According to the World Bank, the Civil Code provides equal inheritance rights for sons and daughters and widows and widowers. Article 23 of the Marriage Code states that both spouses have equal rights to the ownership, tenure and disposal of property acquired during the course of the marriage, without drawing any distinction on the source of the income used to acquire it.
Restricted Physical Integrity
The legal situation in regard to domestic violence in Belarus is unclear. The 2010 shadow report to the CEDAW committee reports that the Belarusian criminal code does not define or criminalise domestic violence, while Amnesty International reports that in January 2009, a new Law on Crime Prevention came into force, which specifically refers to domestic violence for the first time, and calls on the authorities to investigate all cases of domestic violence, and prosecute perpetrators. Accurate figures regarding the number of domestic violence cases are not available, but according to a survey carried out in 2008 by the Belarus State University's Center for Sociological and Political Research, 25% of women surveyed aged 18 – 60 had experienced physical violence in their families, and 80% had experienced psychological violence. According to the 2010 shadow CEDAW report, domestic violence is still widely accepted in Belarus, and considered to be a private matter that should not be talked about openly. This, and fear of reprisal and social stigma stops many women from reporting domestic violence, and means that perpetrators are able to act with impunity. That said, it is reported that police attitudes to victims of domestic violence have improved in recent years, thanks to targeted training and the appointment of community support officers in police stations, and that those cases that do make it to court usually result in a conviction. The 2010 shadow report to the CEDAW committee reports that services available to victims of domestic violence (such as crisis centres) are inadequate, and there are no permanent shelters. The Criminal Code, adopted in 2002, contained significant expansion of provisions for punishing sex-related crimes, including rape, sexual assault, and sex with a person under the age of 16. However, spousal rape is not specifically recognised under Belarusian law. According to the US Department of State human rights report for 2009, rape cases are seldom reported, mainly because victims are ashamed, or do not believe that the police will deal with the case seriously. Trafficking in persons is a criminal offence in Belarus, but remains a serious problem. Belarus is a source and transit country for women trafficked to Russia, Turkey, and the countries of the European Union and the Middle East. Victims of trafficking do not face criminal charges for illegal acts committed as a result of their having been trafficked, and are entitled to protection and medical care from the state, but only if they agree to cooperate in investigations and prosecutions. There are reports of young male political activists being forcibly conscripted into the army as a result of their gender and political identity, where they face harassment and physical abuse. Women have the right to use – and obtain information about – contraception. According to figures given in a 2010 UNFPA report, 76% of women in Belarus reported using some form of contraception (including so-called ‘traditional’ methods). The 2010 shadow report to the CEDAW committee mentions that state provided reproductive and other health services are in general of poor quality, and inaccessible in many rural areas, meaning that people have to pay for services that should be available free of charge. Abortion is available on demand in Belarus, and remains one of the principal means of birth control (a legacy from the Soviet period). Female genital mutilation is not reported to be practiced in Belarus.
No gender-disaggregated data is available for immunisation rates, but according to a 2007 UNICEF report, these are very high (between 98% and 99%) for all children in Belarus, indicating that it is unlikely that there is any significant discrepancy between boys and girls. Under-five mortality rates are higher for boys (14 per 1000) than for girls (9). Net secondary-school enrolment rates provided by UNICEF are very slightly higher for girls (88%) than for boys (87%). The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.87. There is evidence to suggest that Belarus is not a country of concern in relation to missing women, or son preference in early childhood care or access to education.
Restricted Resources and Entitlements
Belarusian legislation does not discriminate against women in relation to rights of ownership or access to land, and access to property other than land. All property bought before a marriage remains the sole property of the partner who purchased it, while property that is bought by either party during a marriage is considered to be joint property, and cannot be sold without the permission of both spouses. There is also no legal discrimination against women in regard to access to bank loans and credit, and government schemes in place to support women would-be entrepreneurs. According to the 2010 shadow report to the CEDAW committee, it is difficult for anyone to gain access to credit, male or female, as credit is expensive and inaccessible.
Restricted Civil Liberties
Freedom of movement is restricted for all citizens in Belarus, female and male. The government holds a database of some 100,000 people who are not allowed to travel freely outside the country. In addition, the registration system (a relic of the Soviet era) limits the capacity of people to move to a different area of the country to that listed in their internal passport. Beyond these restrictions, there are no reported legal restraints on women’s freedom of movement.
Neither the right to freedom of expression nor freedom of association and assembly are respected in Belarus, where both are limited by restrictive laws. According to the 2010 CEDAW shadow report, media monitoring revealed that representations of women in the Belarusian media are either highly sexualized, or limited to traditional gender roles of dutiful wife and mother. All NGOs – including those working for women’s rights and gender equality – operate under very difficult conditions, including onerous registration and tax regimes, and the threat of criminal prosecution if they are deemed to be engaging in political activities. Men and women in Belarus have the same rights to vote and to stand for election. A Presidential decree led to the establishment of 30% quotas for women in the two legislative chambers. This is reflected in the fact that as of 2010, there were 35 women deputies in the House of Representatives (out of 110 – 31.8%), and 19 in the higher Council of the Republic (out of 58 – 32.8%). However, political power in Belarus sits with the Presidential executive rather than these legislative bodies, meaning that the presence of a relatively high proportion of women here has little impact on gender equality and women’s rights more widely. Since independence, women have been active in the civic sphere, although the advocacy and campaigning activities of women’s rights NGOs – like all civil society organizations in Belarus – are severely limited and they are able to exert little influence on government policy. But women’s rights NGOs do play an important role in providing support to victims of gender-based violence and trafficking, as well as lobbying for legislative changes in regard to domestic violence and gender discrimination. Pregnant women in Belarus are entitled to 126 days’ paid maternity leave. Beyond that, they can stay at home with their child for up to three years, and the employer is obliged to keep their job open for them. However, many employers circumvent these requirements by putting women on short term contracts, and then refusing to renew them in the event of the woman becoming pregnant. Belarus has not seen the same transition to a market economy as other former Soviet republics, meaning there has been less economic upheaval and female unemployment is not as high here as it is elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Women remain segregated in certain areas of employment – such as healthcare and education – where wages are typically lower than those of men working in other sectors; they are also more likely to remain unemployed for long periods of time. In addition, few women occupy senior management positions. Same-sex relationships are legal in Belarus for women and men, but societal discrimination and harassment of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community occurs. In May 2010, permission to hold an LGBT pride event in Minsk was refused, although this may be indicative of more general restrictions on freedom of assembly and association in Belarus than of discrimination against the LGBT community.
- ↑ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010) The World Factbook: Belarus, online edition, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 1; BBC (n.d.) Belarus country profile, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1102180.stm (accessed 17 December 2010); US Department of State (2010) ‘2009 Country Reports on Human Rights: Belarus’, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm (accessed 17 December 2010); Petina, L., Tonkachva, E., Smolyanko, O., Serzhan, T., Efimova, N. and Eskova, E. (2010) ‘Shadow Report The Republic of Belarus – 2010 On the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’, CEDAW, New York. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws48.htm (accessed 23 December 2010), pp.5-6
- ↑ BBC (n.d.) Belarus country profile, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1102180.stm (accessed 17 December 2010) ; Petina, L., Tonkachva, E., Smolyanko, O., Serzhan, T., Efimova, N. and Eskova, E. (2010) ‘Shadow Report The Republic of Belarus – 2010 On the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’, CEDAW, New York. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws48.htm (accessed 23 December 2010), p.6
- ↑ World Bank (n.d.) data: Belarus, http://data.worldbank.org/country/belarus (accessed 23 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 1; BBC (n.d.) Belarus country profile, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1102180.stm (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 1
- ↑ Petina, L., Tonkachva, E., Smolyanko, O., Serzhan, T., Efimova, N. and Eskova, E. (2010) ‘Shadow Report The Republic of Belarus – 2010 On the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’, CEDAW, New York. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws48.htm (accessed 23 December 2010) , p.9
- ↑ Reference 7, pp.7-8
- ↑ Reference 7, pp.7-9
- ↑ CEDAW (2010) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Seventh periodic report of States parties Belarus’, CEDAW/C/BLR/7, CEDAW, New York. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws48.htm (accessed 23 December 2010), p.15
- ↑ United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (n.d): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. - CEDAW: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 26 November 2010); - Optional Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8-b&chapter=4&lang=en (accessed 26 November 2010)
- ↑ Reference 11
- ↑ Council of Europe (n.d.) European Convention on Human Rights. Impact in 47 Countries. Country information: Belarus, http://human-rights-convention.org/impact-of-the-european-convention-on-human-rights/ (accessed 23 December 2010)
- ↑ United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012. p.128
- ↑ Reference 14 p.140; World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf, accessed 2 March 2012.
- ↑ Reference 10, p.66
- ↑ United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, Population Division, New York, NY , p.28
- ↑ US Department of State (2010) ‘2009 Country Reports on Human Rights: Belarus’, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm (accessed 17 December 2010
- ↑ Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2002) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Combined fourth, fifth and sixth periodic reports of States parties Belarus’, CEDAW/C/BLR/4-6, CEDAW, New York. Available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws30.htm (accessed 23 December 2010). p.63
- ↑ Reference 10, Pp.15, 22; Reference 19, P.65
- ↑ Reference 19, P.65
- ↑ Reference 10, P.22
- ↑ Reference 10, p.32
- ↑ World Bank (2011) Belarus country data: Women, Business and Law, available at http://wbl.worldbank.org/data/exploreeconomies/belarus/2011, accessed (18 March 2012).
- ↑ Reference 19, p.64
- ↑ Reference 7, p.26; Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International. http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf (accessed 8 November 2010), p.76
- ↑ Reference 7, p.25; Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 7, p.26
- ↑ Reference 18; Reference 7, p.24
- ↑ Reference 7, pp.27-28
- ↑ Reference 7, p.24
- ↑ Reference 19, p.10
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18; Reference 10, p.25
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (2010) State of the World’s Population 2010. From conflict and crisis to renewal: generations of change, UNFPA, New York , p.94
- ↑ Reference 7, pp.18-20
- ↑ UNDP (2007)’World abortion policies’, data downloaded from http://www.devinfo.info/genderinfo/ (accessed 21 October 2010) ; Reference 7, p.20
- ↑ UNICEF (2007) State of the World’s Children : the Double Dividend of Gender Equality, New York: UNICEF http://www.unicef.org/sowc07/docs/sowc07.pdf (accessed 17 December 2010) , p.110
- ↑ Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International. http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf (accessed 8 November 2010), p.75
- ↑ Reference 43, p.118
- ↑ Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012)
- ↑ Reference 10, p.65
- ↑ Reference 7, p.32
- ↑ Reference 10, pp.56-57
- ↑ Reference 7, p.6
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International. http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf (accessed 8 November 2010), p.75; Human Rights Watch (2010) World Report2010: Belarus, online edition, New York, Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87609 (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 7, p.23
- ↑ Reference 7, pp.6-7, 12
- ↑ Reference 10, p.15
- ↑ Reference 7, p.10
- ↑ Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d. - a) BELARUS: Palata Predstaviteley (House of Representatives), http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2027_A.htm (accessed 17 December 2010) ; Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d. - b) BELARUS: Soviet Respubliki (Council of the Republic), http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2028_A.htm (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 7, p.10
- ↑ Human Rights Watch (2010) World Report2010: Belarus, online edition, New York, Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87609 (accessed 17 December 2010); Reference 18; Reference 7, pp.6-7, 12
- ↑ Reference 18; Reference 7, p.11
- ↑ International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/travmain.home (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Reference 18
- ↑ Pastore, Francesco and Verashchagina, Alina (2007) ‘When Does Transition Increase the Gender Wage Gap? An Application to Belarus’, Discussion Paper no. 2796, Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit, Bonn. Available at http://ftp.iza.org/dp2796.pdf (accessed 23 December 2010) , p.1
- ↑ Reference 65, p.1; Reference 7, p.14; Reference 10, p.40
- ↑ Reference 7, p.10
- ↑ International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), (n.d.), country profile: Belarus, http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/BELARUS/Law (accessed 17 December 2010)
- ↑ ILGA (2010) ‘Ban of Slavic Pride 2010 in Minsk’, 12 May 2010, http://www.ilga-europe.org/home/guide/country_by_country/belarus/ban_of_slavic_pride_2010_in_minsk (accessed 17 December 2010)
The Women, Business and the Law
Where are laws equal for men and women?
The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.
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