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Gender equality implies such society where both women and men have equal opportunities, rights and responsibilities in all spheres of life. Equality between women and men means that members of both sexes can have equal access to education and health care, governance and power, have equal opportunities to acquire financial independence by working for somebody or managing their own businesses, and to realize their personal and professional needs and interests. A crucial factor of achieving gender equality is empowering women in various spheres of life, and involvement of men into the process of achieving gender equality.

The roles played by women and men in the society are predetermined biologically only to a slight degree, while socially they are predetermined to a considerable degree. They are constantly changing and are changeable. Though being determined by the culture and religion, the roles differ depending on the geographic location and time change. UNFPA promotes the idea of equal rights and opportunities for men and women and implements initiatives aiming to counteract gender-based violence.

Improved performance of the legal and organizational mechanisms for the prevention of domestic violence and provision of support to the victims of violence in a family is the principal task in the area of ensuring gender equality addressed by UNFPA in partnership with the interested national authorities, non-governmental organizations and mass media.

National Policy

The year 1995 might be considered the beginning of the implementation of gender equality policy in Belarus, when the Belarusian delegation took part in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The Beijing Conference participants committed themselves globally to the empowerment of women; this commitment is reflected in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Since then certain progress has been made towards the achievement of the goals specified in the document. In June 1996 the National Plan of Actions to Improve the Situation for Women (1996-2000) was adopted. The Plan’s provisions were further developed and specified in the republican programme “Women of the Republic of Belarus”, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in August 1996. The establishment of the National Mechanism for the implementation of the state policy on women was almost complete.

One of its elements is the National Council on Gender Policy at the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus.

The National Council on Gender Policy at the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus established in 2000 is a body, which coordinates the implementation of the state policy on gender. It comprises representatives of government institutions and women’s associations, and scientists.

In 1997 measures to support women entrepreneurship were included into the Programme of the State Support to Micro-Entrepreneurship in the Republic of Belarus. In 1998 the Guidelines of State Family Policy were adopted by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus, which described the measures to improve the economic self-reliance of families and women.

The main document of the country designed to ensure the equal participation of men and women in all spheres of life is the National Plan of Actions to Ensure Gender Equality in the Republic of Belarus for 2011 – 2015(download link). The document was adopted August 16, 2011 by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus. The National Plan covers the following areas: ensuring equal socioeconomic rights; ensuring equal access to social protection and healthcare; development of the system of gender education; information support to the interventions focused on ensuring gender equality; gender statistics and science, etc.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW (download link))

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the only comprehensive and universal international document committing the states to guarantee women’s rights and eliminate discrimination against women in such spheres as education, employment, healthcare, family policy, finance, law, and social policy.

The Convention was adopted by the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1979. It came into effect on the territory of the Belarusian Soviet Socialistic Republic on September 3, 1981 and remained in effect after Belarus became independent. Starting from 2000 Belarus has submitted Periodic Reports in conformity with Article 18 of the Convention. In 2004 the Combined Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Periodic Report of Belarus was submitted (download link). And in 2009 the Seventh Periodic Report was submitted (download link). On February 4, 2011 the CEDAW Committee adopted Concluding Comments (download link) on the report of Belarus.

Domestic Violence

Violence on the basis of sex or gender-based violence is the violence of a member of one sex against a member of another sex. This type of violence reflects and aggravates the inequality between women and men and undermines health, dignity, safety and independence of the victim. Violence in a family (domestic violence) is physical, psychological, sexual or economical violence performed by an intimate partner or a family member.

In Belarus domestic violence is the most commonly encountered type of gender-based violence. In 2011 2602 domestic crimes were registered. Every day about 500 incidents of domestic conflicts are reported to the law enforcement agencies, 70 per cent of which are cases of domestic violence against women and children. At the same time considerable quantities of violence incidents are not registered, as many women either tend to put up with them, or prefer seeking solutions without notifying official bodies. That is why the majority of perpetrators remain unpunished.

According to the data of the national survey to assess the situation with domestic violence in the Republic of Belarus conducted in 2008 by the Centre of Sociological and Political Research of the Belarusian State University as part of joint national awareness raising campaigns to counteract domestic violence under the auspices of the UN Office in the Republic of Belarus, four out of five women experienced psychological violence in their own families. Each fourth woman suffers from physical violence, 22.4% of women respondents experience economic and 13% experience sexual violence at home.

There is a strong correlation between the incidence of domestic violence and socioeconomic situation of the family: if in low-income families every third respondent woman experienced beatings, in families with good income only 5% of survey participants mentioned such things.

The key legal document of the Republic of Belarus in counteracting domestic violence is the Law On the Principles of Crime Prevention adopted in 2008 and the National Plan of Actions to Ensure Gender Equality in the Republic of Belarus for 2011 – 2015. (download link)

Starting from 2006 UNFPA has acted as the coordinator of the annual awareness raising campaign of the UN Office against domestic violence. The number of campaign partners has been increasing every year. UNFPA believes that the victory over gender-based violence is impossible without the broad involvement of men in addressing this issue.