Inequality of Paternity Rights: Ukraine and Poland

by Alina

Inequality in Paternity rights of men against women as well as variance of this issue in

Ukraine vs. Poland perspective


During the last century in the context of feminist movements and the beginning of paying special attention to gender inequality around the world, although the level of importance of the topic varies significantly from the level of development and the level of democracy from country to country, women took the position of being the “victims” in this context and the central focus was directed to women’s emancipation and the struggle for their rights. Of course, the significance of this can not be over evaluated, because the life of a woman with this changed radically in the direction of self-development, considering her as a person equally as a man. The world is developing unbelievably fast, modernization has significant impact on society‘s democratization, information and transforms the world into a global network, which enables the rapid formation of a woman’s position as an independent. At the same time, behind such attention to the oppressed women, the rights of men moved to the background of women’s position and are not considered that important. This leads to serious consequences in which men might suffer from “positive discrimination” at the better case, or suffer from an inability to protect their rights in a conflict situation with a woman, because the view on women remains to be the look on the victim, sometimes regardless of the situation. And this happens mostly in countries, which are not that developed economically and culturally as well as are not that democratic.

The central focus of this research is the status of men as fathers which is my scientific interest within this project. The research problem is the presence of a wide-spread stereotype that a mother is much more attached to the child and vice versa, which was being formed for many centuries in the historical context. Because of that men might suffer from difficulties of being perceived as equal and equally influential on a child’s life as its mother is.

In underdeveloped countries where the values of freedom of actions and self-expression, where democratization has only just begun or suffers from non-democratic issues existing in the government, for example, in a country like Ukraine, it is almost impossible to obtain paternity leave, and even if it exists on the paper in the statutes of organizations where people work, on a community level, on the level of public thought, paternity leave of father is perceived as deviation and not all men have enough courage to resist this opinion. The research question is which problems man who are fathers have in their countries, do they save the title of “loving and beloved dad” and what have been done from the side of government; the sub-question concerns men’s organization, what are the main goals and how do they reach them. In order to stress out the difficulties that post-soviet countries meet, on the example of Ukraine, the situation was compared to Poland, which is an EU country with very different state level now, but used to have a lot in common culturally.

Literature review

The basic of the whole situation with the discrimination and inequality in right goes from the simple at first glance concept of gender inequality. There are several approaches to explain why men have been dominating women for such a long time, but the most wide spread and which keeps to be proved all the time is the theory of social constructivism and specifically concept of “doing gender”. Therefore, this influences the roles that are prescribed to men and women in societies and of course those roles concern maternity and paternity issues as well.

Ukrainian researcher Khoma claims that the result of consolidation of the rights and gender roles are adopted in each society where especially women are seen not only those who give the birth and feeds with breast, but also who takes care of a child. The last issue already goes beyond biological differences and functions, and imposes a social role – to be with a child. With this situation, the author stresses that this certainly leads to absence of the further development of women in public, in such spheres as career, politics and so on. But in addition, it harms not only a woman. She also claims, that this seems to be a discrimination against men and norms should be “rethought” because in both cases of man and woman willing to raise their children are really considered discriminated. The logic is following: if that person is male and wants to take care of the child, he is not endowed with all the guarantees that woman receives in case of giving a birth and raising a child (such as paid paternity leave, financial aid, help to single fathers …) or it could be “indirectly discrimination” which happens when a female has no such liberty as a man has which means not to participate that much in bringing up, but she is already indirectly tied to the child. (Khoma, 2003)

In addition to that, in the context of recent historical changes in women positions, women tend to be more protected by different organizations, whereas men do not receive that support. “Masculism – 1. the belief that equality between the sexes requires the recognition and redress o prejudice and discrimination against men as well as women. 2. The movement organized around this belief”. (Young, 1995/1997). We can see that even the understanding of the concept of masculism does not exist properly in people consciousness due to constructed roles, and we can observe the lack of men organizations. Thus, for example, Ukraine, as well as in other post-soviet countries, the phenomenon of male movement (or men’s movements as there are many of them and they all are different) it is almost unknown, and even in the West countries it is rare to hear about it. (Journal Ya, 2008) During last 4 years situation changes a little bit, however the size and influence of those organizations are ridiculous in comparison to the whole Ukrainian population.

The main issue that proves above-mentioned claim is that “in both national and international policy documents concerned with gender equality, women are the subjects of the policy discourse. The agencies or meetings that formulate, implement, or monitor gender policies usually have names referring to women, such as Department for Women, Women’s Equity Bureau, Prefectural Women’s Centre, or Commission on the Status of Women”. Such kind of bodies have a clear mandate to act for women. But on the same level they do not have an equally clear mandate to act with the same respect for men. In addition, it should be noticed that the major policy documents or authority acts concerned with gender equality, such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, often do not consider men as a group and rarely discuss men in concrete terms. (Connel, 2005) Well, here again “gender oppression is synonymous with oppression of woman” (Young, 1995/1997).

All of that all together leads the problems of understanding the importance of father in child’s life and causes absence of necessaries of protection men’s rights in low-developed countries and basically harms men as well as women self-expression and freedom in development. “Since the society has decided that raising children is women’s work and earning Money is Men’s, there were more than one generation of sons grown up, being convinced that father’s life must pass at job” (Journal Ya, 2008)


I.  Fathers in Ukraine: status, right and value

To begin the analysis of the position of single-man as a father should be considered their status is on governmental level, because it creates public opinion as well as conscious of men as father. To analyze this situation this paragraph is divided into analyzing three different areas which can demonstrate current Ukrainian situation on this issue. The biggest problem for men is that due to of roles that society expects them to have they have always be bread-winners in the family, whereas women in Ukrainian society are perceived as a those who must devote themselves to domestic households and raising a children. This causes uncoconsciousness of father and force mother to bring up a child as a natural behavior. The first issue that proves that is the absence of an official Father’s Day in Ukraine against existence celebration of Mother’s Day whereas the 2nd is lack of a clear definition of “single father” on the state level against the existence of “single mother”. This already reveals inequality. Besides, that formulates opinion that a mother is more important in child’s bringing up then a father. There was no scientific data found on this topic which only proves lack of development of this sphere in Ukraine. Some examples which reveal that are demonstrated in the 3rd part of this chapter, which demonstrate that this thought is even used in courts on an informal level and even by authorized people with power.

Chapter I.I. Do fathers have a right for their Holiday?

Many countries have officially recognized Father’s Day, which is a public holiday prescribed in legislation. In Ukraine, this holiday has not existed yet, but due to some hard work of some NGOs and the events were held by them there might be this holiday created. Thus, many organizations that support the rights of parents, ex-husbands or just groups of men who have children and raise them on their own, believed that first of all to improve this sphere it has to be reformed public opinion about the role of the father. It is believed that the most important thing in this situation is to invest in the consciousness of fathers, convince that he has a huge responsibility in the upbringing the child, that he should devote a child much more time than currently. And as a first step for this kind of education is to acknowledge the public holiday which would be called “Father’s Day”. To illustrate this let us consider a conference of UNIAN on nationwide charity campaign “nationwide Father’s Day”, which took place in 2012 (web-portal Alliance “Ukraine without orphans”, 2012).

The conference was attended by representatives of various NGOs and some government officials. As journalists tend to say, according to O.Marchenko, the president of NGO “International Center of fatherhood”, there was a charity event called “Father’s Day” held since 2006. Its goal was to detect significance of a father in the family, “to return to the model of a good father in the family.” And even though the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports in cooperation with the public in 2008, has drafted a decree of the President of Ukraine “On Father’s Day,” which was approved by Humanitarian Governmental Committee under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and in 2009 there was declared the third Sunday September as a Father’s Day in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Public Committee of Family Support and Parenthood Responsibility, appropriate legislation for Father’s Day was not approved. However, O.Marchenko said that he had spoken with representatives of the Department and the Ministry of Social Policy of the family, and he was said, that a State Program designed to support the family in 2016 has as a third points necessity of Holiday of Father’s Day approval on the national level. But it will be only in 2016!, meanwhile this holiday already exists more than half a century in plenty of European countries.

Section I.II. Single dads: who are they and how should we call them

Nevertheless, absence of the holidays on governmental level is not that critical on the same level with the fact that even the concept of “single father” does not exist in Ukrainian Legislation. In-depth analysis of the law of Ukraine “On State Assistance for Families with Children” it was found that those fathers that raises a children alone have no right to apply for financial support. Meanwhile, in Section V-A Article 18.1 is called “Right for assistance for single mothers” of the Law of Ukraine on state social assistance for needy families (Constitution of Ukraine, 2011). And interestingly, the right for having this financial support have: “single mothers (who are not married)”, “lonely adoptive parent who …”. In this situation, fathers can demand the status of “adopter”, but they would not have the status of  a “single fathers (who are not married)”. So those fathers who are simply divorced do not receive this financial assistance when mother do. After analyzing the “Law of Ukraine on Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine …” (Constitution of Ukraine 2011) it was found that even with the current President Yanukovych signature within all the recent changes this issue has not been changed.

However, some legal changes still were mad, but in a completely different direction. Thus, the deputies decided to place the responsibility for the bringing up on the both parents by forcing the father. The law says that if the mother does not take the baby from the hospital, it would be done by father, otherwise he would be searched by authorities using the birth certificate of the child. On my opinion, that is the silliest solution because if father does not want to take care of the child he would ot be, but would do it, hiding from the authority and a child would be a victim.

In recent reports on the “First National channel”, this issue about recent changes in legislation was raised (web-portal of the First National, 2012). According to A. Filipishiny, prime-Director of the State Department for Adoption and Protection of Children’s Rights, the law is “absurd and does not protect the child because such coercion will not lead to a conscious parent child care.”

One of the public activists from the NGO of single parents emphasizes that the better way out of this situation would be the accepting the law which would sound like “the right of a child who has half-orphan status”, which would mean that the money would be paid either the mother or father. But this law does not exist. Although it is interesting that the new law-project is considered by deputies from a different perspective. Thus, Y. Miroshnichenko, MP of Ukraine, in fact the author of this project, says that “Unfortunately, there are cases when none of the parents have taken a child home and, we know the state, society will not leave such a child unattended.” And here, again, going back to the laws on the protection of children’s rights and support for single parents, the question arises: who still belongs to the category of single parents? According O.Filipshynoyi,  “Definition of the term do not exist” According to reporters of the First National Channel, “in relevant ministries do not know whether it will be divorced or widowers, or those who took away the child from the hospital”.

Section I.III. How a Mother is better than a father

Above-mentioned issues are directly related to the level of consciousness of fathers itself and identifying themselves as being responsible for the child and having equal rights with the mother. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, problems of fathers are not just limited with this. Despite the lack of necessary policy to built public opinion, there are fathers who want to raise their child alone, due to the death of the mother or divorce. But here they are failing because in conflict with a woman, they suffer through the same stereotypes that the best parent for a child is not the father but mother. Although laws and specifying that they should have equal rights, in reality it still goes different way. Unfortunately, the valid opened data on this topic could not be found, however there are plenty of cases shown with Mass Media and other channels of communication.

One of these cases was the situation of one young father, who continues to fight with the mother in the court for two years in order to get the right to be tutelage (web-portal TNS Ukraine, 2012)[1]. This man says that “It fails everytime because I am a man”. “In many courts of Ukraine, I have seen lots of rejection for fathers just because they were men. This is gender discrimination “, – says E. Konovalov, founder of the NGO” International Union of brave dads”. He says: “The courts are always on the side of the mother. However, to win this process there are the same rights on legislative level for fathers as well as for mother”  It comes from the fact that the guardianship authority comply the thought that a child would feel better with the mother. Here is an example of such a though.  T. Vernyhora, the head of Services of children in Kramatorsk City Council (Lugansk district), says: “A woman who gave birth, endured a child has definitely realized that the conditions were not acceptable, changed her attitude…” So, the representator of authority by just commenting this situation already assesses the situation towards the mother.

Thus, we can see that indeed, in the Ukrainian society there is essential lack of measures of reforms that are needed to help single fathers to feel equal towards single mothers. Even though on the state level, these problems have not been solved in Ukraine exists an organization that deals with this issue which is called “International Union of Brave Dads.” Although, it should be noticed that after careful monitoring of databases of nongovernmental organizations, monitoring the media info for several years, another similar to this organization does not exist. This leads to concerns about the effectiveness of its operations, especially given under a note that it does not contain many members and consists of disabled men and works mostly with them, but not with ordinary fathers. To understand this situation better, the activity of this organization was analyzed represent in the next chapter.

II. Ukraine vs. Poland: feeling the difference. Organizations in action

Let us analyze the situation in Poland and Ukraine from the perspective of presence of special institutions or organizations, which provide help for fathers who meet discrimination. I chose 2 NGOs, 1 from Poland, another one from Ukraine, to reveal, how different they act, but how similar are their intentions. In this chapter, I tried to describe, how different is government toward those organizations and stress another level of inequality that appears between countries.

The chosen cases appeared to be exactly that because on that example it is possible to demonstrate the gap between them. Besides, those are most famous organizations, demonstrated by Mass Media and are most relevant within brought up topics. Further I will describe features of each organization and it would form the image of how different the way of functioning is and try to figure out why that has happened.

II.I. Ukraine: International Union of the Brave Dads

The “International Union of Brave Dads” is an international non-governmental organization of people with disabilities which voluntarily unites divorced fathers who bringe up their children without mother, and at the same time are disabled; in addition it unites disabled children from 16 years of single-parent families from the whole”(The newspaper “Father “, 2012). The goal of this organization is primarily a revival of fathers participation in children bringing up and protection of rights of single fathers, being members of the organization.

Initially, the organization was founded on May 19th, 1991 in E. Konovalov’s apartment, who was a divorced disabled father of two children from the age of two, which brought up together eleven single  fathers in order to overcome the challenges of life. Thus, appeared organization, which eventually united more and more disabled single-fathers and, as a result, expanded its actions. According to I.Birukova’s article in the newspaper “Day”, Y.Konovalov claimed, that the organization consisted of 242 family members from Ukraine, 7 – Belarus and 2 from Russia. In general, there are over 500 families, where a child is raised up by a single father.  “Union of brave dads helps them with what it can whether it is financial support or if it is necessary, provides legal advice. To get the funds help sponsors – people, who care of other people’s woes» (web-portal of the newspaper” Day “, 2012).

The main organization is engaged in education of the population, help fathers, who need help in the courts, and provide moral support for people who find themselves in the same situation as the members are. Thus, in recent years there were held several events by the organization that were intended to spread opinion of the importance of father for a child among public and promote examples of exemplary raising up. For example, this summer 2012 were 4 International family games held with the slogan: “Dad + I = strong family!”, Which was held together with the Department of Family and Youth of Donetsk Regional State Administration. During the event, divorced fathers with children cooked together, sang lullabies, were telling tales and so on. The previous summer of 2011, there was event called “Our dad better than anyone!» (Web-portal TV channel “Plus”[2]).

In addition the organization is trying to influence the legislative process of Ukraine and demads to reform the policy of family issues. So, not that much time ago there was written an official letter to the that-time-President Viktor Yushchenko with the following proposals (electronic newspaper “Father”, 2007): 1. establish the title “Brave Father” along with the title “Mother Heroine” 2. In order to revive the fathers participation in raising up in families and encourage men to participate actively in the education of their children to establish a holiday “Day of Dad” in Ukraine on May the 19th and consider that day “red” day calendar (free of work day) 3. Stipulating a two-week paid paternity leave for fathers 4. The persons who have become disabled due to injury in the circumstances of protection of citizens under 18 years old to be considered as combatants and equal them to disabled veterans.

From the above mentioned it can be concluded that the organization is not such a major and influential, because the goals that were set about 20 years ago have not become true by now. And a letter written to the President was discussed at a sufficient level and no demands were satisfied. Although the organization is called international, it includes a tiny number of people from other countries that can not be leaved without attention. But at the local level organization is really successful, as many parents from Donetsk have found help in this center-organization. In addition, they are involved with the media, which may be the first step for enlargement, because, perhaps, they could find partners.

II.II. Issue in Poland: Center of Rights of Parents and Children

For a deeper understanding of the scale of the problems in Ukraine and compare the performance of the Ukrainian organization, I analyzed the activities of the leading NGOs in this field, which operates in Poland for some time and is called the “Center of Rights of Father and Child.” In fact, this organization was founded in a similar way to Ukrainian one: it started with a small number of activists who faced the problem of lack of protection of their rights and the rights of the child. But the scale of this organization is very different nowadays.

How it looks like in Poland

Before turning to the organization itself, it is necessary to look briefly at the cultural context of Poland in the frame of “positions” of father. The most important point is that the Father’s Day has been celebrated since 1965 on the governmental level and June 23th of each year in Poland is a Holiday (web-portal electronic journal «Dni Wolne»). On this day, children who want to express their gratitude and love for his father prepare handmade gifts and make the wishes. And what increases from year to year is that on the occasion of Father’s Day kindergartens and schools organize special events.

If we look at households in Poland, they also differ from Ukrainian one. Thus, according to Euro statistics it was found that in Poland there are only 0.3 percent of households are families of single-fathers with children. Single mothers-families are only 3.3 percent. In the EU countries, the percentage of single-parents is proportionately bigger: they are 0.5 percent and single mothers – 3.7 percent of all households (web-portal of Centrum Praw Ojca and Dziecka).

Center of Rights of Father and Child

Now more about the organization itself. The following information is taken from the Charter of Centre of Rights of Father and Child. This organization was founded in 2001 but officially registered only in 2006. It was founded by volunteer activists and planned to provide the legal advice, the provision of psychological, educational and business assistance to fathers, children and families that are in a difficult situation, especially during the crisis of the family, marriage, related to divorce, separation and isolation from their children. Since 2006, the organization has been received more than 800 applications, which includes personal consultation, correspondence, mail and phone from about 1000 people every year. Organization assists fathers, mothers and other family members in Poland, Germany, Austria, of Denmark, Sweden, England, Ukraine, Croatia, USA, Canada, Lebanon, Belgium and others. In 2012 their number exceeded 2,000 people, where approximately 25-30% were women. Because of high goals that organization set fir itself the Center of Rights of Father and a Child co-operates with other organizations with similar objectives, which work in the field of helping children, youth and families. In February 2012, there was a video report shoot for the Polish TV-program “” about the activity and main goals of organization with showing some cases of unfortunate situations of fathers, which were separated from their children[3].

This organization first of all protects fathers and children as well, as in the situations of divorce the most suffers the child. On web-page of organization you can find a lot of information that such support for fathers is needed because many mothers find the some kind of revenge on a man by limiting the ability to communicate with the child. Official statistics which supports this fact does not exist as it is an informal motivation of women, and there is no such a research that might discover it. However, the fact remains the fact, because the organization has already many years of experience of helping men during litigation (court processes), and each history of father-mother-child relationship is carefully analyzed.

Analyzing the charter of this organization, there was revealed main goals, which sets the organization, and what are the basics. (Charter, Chapter 2, p. 1) The most important is the desire to respect and ensure the rights of the father in the name of the best interests of the child and change the courts practice, which ignores the right of the father to participate fully in the life and upbringing the child. Besides, their aim is to monitor violations of the above-mentioned rights. Another focus of the efforts of the organization is to educate the public consciousness. Thus, one of the goals is to promote increase of the importance of fathers in lives of their children and families, particularly in the fields of science, education and upbringing. They popularize the idea of ​​family and social mediation. They seek to preserve national traditions, cultivating awareness of Polish culture and the development of national, social and cultural consciousness. It includes promoting sports and physical education among children and young people on the same level with the promotion of equality between women and men and combating all forms of discrimination.

In addition, they encourage other organizations and other local communities to assist other organizations in the legal, consulting and educational spheres, which are involved in building civil society. They provide social assistance to parents, children and families who are in difficult situations, in order to provide them with equal opportunities and to help children who were neglected, abandoned and disabled and orphans.

Achieving the goals they accomplish through various events and providing certain services. Thus, one of the leading types of activities is promoting the importance of the role of the father in family life through publications in the media and personal examples; in addition it is emphasized any kind of violation of the rights of parents and children in the media. They are consulting people in counseling, psychological and legal spheres. Integration of the members within the organization is by using scientific, social and sociable activities. Furthermore, they create audit, control, monitor institutions, units of state structures or individuals, and present the results to appropriate authorities and the general public. Organizing various activities they participate in informal education of children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. What is particularly interesting is that they are engaged in research in the social sciences, law and humanities, marketing research and public opinion survey. They also organize courses, seminars, conferences, camps for children and parents to integrate them. They write, publish and sell books, shoot movies, videos, TV and radio programs. And that’s not all. For more details should read the Charter of the Organization.


Looking at the activities of this organization and comparing it to the results, which were reached about Ukrainian one, the difference is striking. Polish Center exists twice less time than the Ukrainian one, but the progress that can be measured at least with the number of people who annually seek help there is much larger. The reason of this success may be many factors, but the most important here is the willingness of the community to support this initiative and the thought about the significance of father. Ukraine still does not have a father’s holiday; meanwhile, Polish fathers celebrate their 50 years day. In addition, Polish organization has a lot of partners that help it to be influential. And it is backed by the state, which is totally absent in Ukraine.

So, the way to success is receiving support from the state and other outside organizations. If the Ukrainian government has responded to the letter of the “Union of Brave Dads” with suggestions to change, it would have been radical change in the situation. But in addition to the organization itself should be focused on partners and look for these connections, because it is impossible to overcome such a gap in people’s minds all alone. But looking at those men who could not even find a proper job to feed the child, it is pretty understandable, why it has not that strong influence and develops so slowly. It is important to note that although it has pretty symbolic role in the context of the whole country, it can be a start to a major transformation in the country and it helps people who have no one to go to, so it is crucial. But expansion is only possible with external assistance, which activists in Poland received whereas Ukrainians authorities just ignore the organization.


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[1] To watch the video about that case go to Unfortunately, it is in Ukrainian, however the plot is described in the main part.

[2] To watch the video about how the event looked like go to Unfortunately, it is in Ukrainian, however in mostly contains photos and the plot is described in the main part.

[3] To watch the video go to and watch from 8 min. Unfortunately, it is in Polish, however the main activity is described in this main chapter