What the heck is a “female soldier”?
It just means “prostitute who has sex with soldiers,” right?
More than 100 female Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion. Ukraine does not conscript women. Each of them volunteered for battle.
There are approximately 60,000 women serving in Ukraine’s armed forces, of which 5,000 are on the frontline. Ukraine’s ministry of defence makes much of the image of female and male defenders fighting together but based on interviews with the soldiers themselves and the organisations that help them, including the Veteranka women’s veterans body and the Zemliachky organisation, which has donated about $2m (£1.6m) in vital equipment, a picture has emerged that suggests a lack of respect for the points of view of its female personnel is one failure among many impeding the force’s fighting effectiveness.
It is a cause of frustration and anger for platoon sergeant Nadiya Haran, 27, who joined the army in 2017 as a radio technician. She had wanted to be a translator but until decree No 256 was revoked later that same year, women had been prevented in law from taking up senior roles, including those in combat positions.
Nadiya Haran, 27
There is equality on paper today but scant evidence of it in practice, Haran said, with women’s needs in terms of uniform, body armour, sanitation and career development not treated as priorities and regarded as almost a form of provocation by many men fighting alongside them.
“I would say we have to fight two enemies at once,” she said. “One being Russia, obviously. And the other one is the stereotypes and the stigma that you face every single day. And the only place that I can say I did not see that stigma was the actual ground zero [on the frontline] because everyone was so freaking busy fighting for their country.”
When it comes to uniforms, women must make do with wearing those designed for men, buy their own or seek a donation. Haran, who has been caught up among the heaviest fighting in places such as Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region, said she had been left with a knee injury as she had been unable to properly move around in her fatigues.
Body armour provided by the army is not designed for the female shape and so either constricts the chest or bulges out at the stomach, exposing the vital organs to damage.
Kateryna Myronchuck, 26, a senior lieutenant in 36 Brigade, who said she spent two years failing to get into the army because of her gender, had been forced to buy her own plates and jacket as the army issue was causing her back pain.
Kateryna Myronchuck, 26
Then there is the problem of footwear. “It’s a very big problem to find the military boots with a smaller size for women,” said Olena Bilozerska, 44, a celebrated sniper with multiple kills to her name.
Olena Bilozerska, 44
The list of shortcomings goes on: there is no contraception at the frontline nor the provision of female urinary diversion devices that allows women in trenches to stand up when relieving themselves so as to avoid infections.
Doctors in the field are not trained in gynaecology, and when a female soldier’s contract comes to an end they must undergo a medical examination to be re-enlisted in what many suspect is an attempt to ensure they are not pregnant and chasing paid leave.
But for all of those many indignities, each of the women said it was the mentality that most urgently needed to change. Haran, who recently transferred from her old unit after her formal complaints about the conduct of senior men went nowhere, said she had been told that “her place was in the kitchen” by a senior officer in her former brigade after returning from a successful rotation on the frontline. Many other women had the same experience, she said.
“Yesterday I had to talk to a girl, who knows I am a former gender adviser in the army, and she was put in a psychiatric facility without consent by her commander, just because she applied for transfer to a combat unit,” Haran said. “It’s that bad. And my former subordinate, a girl, a medic, she filed a sexual harassment report and there were witnesses [but] all [the] men refused to testify on her behalf and her commander threatened to put her in a facility as well, just for reporting that she was being sexually harassed.”
Based on what I’ve seen, birth control is key to her profession.
But maybe she’s a super GI Joe killer who none will ever stand against.