Welcome to Part 2 of our December 2023 Inspirational Interview with Khrystyna Kit, founder and chairwoman of the Ukrainian Women Lawyers Association (JurFem).
Khrystyna is a lawyer, human rights defender working with cases of gender-based violence–in particular sexual violence–expert group coordinator on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) at the Prosecutor General’s Office, and co-author of educational and training programs for legal communities on the topic of sexual violence, including CRSV.
In this part of the interivew, Khrystyna talks about her organisation’s educational and training courses for legal professionals and their plans for the future.
Part 1 of Khrystyna’s interview was published 3 December, 2023.
All photos are courtesy of JurFem.
6. You are the co-author of a distance online course for advocates called “Legal Assistance to Victims of Domestic Violence” as well as “Guidelines for Lawyers on Identifying Gender Discrimination and Assistance to Victims”. Could you tell us about these courses and their impact on lawyers who provide assistance to victims and survivors?
Victims of domestic violence have the right to free legal aid in Ukraine and it was important for us that the lawyers and attorneys who provide such assistance not only have theoretical knowledge, but also understood the specifics of working with such victims. They can learn all about this from our distance learning course.
It is important to note that there is actually no judicial practice in cases of gender discrimination in Ukraine. Therefore, it was important for us to show our colleagues how it is possible to build the protection of victims in national courts by applying the practice of the European Court of Human Rights and why these cases are strategic and important for changing approaches.
We continue to work in this direction and have a number of other educational programmes and courses on the topic of gender-based violence and CRSV and have more courses on our educational platform.
7. One of the keys to eradicating VAW is to get men and boys on board efforts to do so. What do you think are the most effective ways of galvanising men and boys to help to end VAW?
This is both a complex and simple question. On the one hand, resistance arises when a person does not have information, does not understand what the problem is and why, for example, we often talk only about violence against women. This can be solved by involving boys and men in discussing the problem and ways to tackle it because violence against women is not only a problem that women have to solve.
At the same time, it is necessary to understand that violence is always about power. Combating violence against women is simultaneously a fight against stereotypes and the debugging of patriarchal dogmas in society. This is perceived as a threat to those who have this power in the majority, i.e. men. Therefore, so that it is not perceived as a threat, we need to work at the level of values, work with culture, as well as simultaneously implementing the corresponding mechanisms in the legislation.
8. Tell us about JurFem’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?
Since February 24, 2022, we have not been able to live and think about such a long perspective. Last year we lived from day to day and none of us knew what might happen tomorrow as all plans can change in one day. Last fall and winter, we lived without electricity and communication, and we still managed to conduct online training, write changes to legislation and provide assistance to victims. I do not know how we will live this winter, but I know for sure that by the end of the year we have to conduct training for prosecutors, police, social workers and lawyers in all regions of Ukraine on working with victims of sexual violence by the Russian military.
We are planning a number of advocacy activities regarding the adoption of the law on reparations for victims of CRSV, the adoption of changes to the criminal procedural legislation regarding the investigation of these crimes. In addition, we will continue our work on implementing victim-oriented approaches in the investigation of sexual violence. And what will happen from January 2024, I will be able to say in January.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of JurFem to stop VAW?
We are always open to collaboration and are very happy when colleagues from other countries write to us and are ready to share their experience. If you are a lawyer and have experience working with the topic or victims of gender-based violence or CRSV, we will be happy to organise an event for our colleagues together with you, to involve you in the preparation of analytics, publication or relevant recommendations. If you are not a lawyer, you can spread information about us, talk about our work.
Each and every one of you should not be indifferent and should speak up about the crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine because the sexual violence committed by Russia against Ukrainian women, men, and children are war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is not only our reality, but the reality of every person in the world.
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
I’m not sure we can stop violence against women forever. What we can do and are responsible for is the creation of an effective system of countermeasures and protection, safe cities and infrastructure, and an effective response system that women and girls can trust.
When we talk about stopping violence against women in a country at war, it cannot be stopped unless the war is stopped. In Ukraine, we clearly know that no matter what mechanisms we implement or system we build, if Russia, which does not comply with international law, has chosen the civilian population as its target, we will not be able to stop the violence while our territories are occupied.
Today’s reality unfortunately shows that each and every one of us needs to work even harder to protect not only those who have suffered from violence, but also from violence as a war crime; and also, on how to restore the trust of victims of these crimes in law, including international law, and faith in justice.