CNN is reporting that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has defended its decision to train female soldiers to march in high heels, following an outcry from local lawmakers.
Women’s units from the Ukrainian armed forces will march in a parade to mark the 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union on Aug 24.
In preparation, they have been drilling twice a day and are progressing well, Major Eugene Balabushka said. He confirmed the plan for the women to wear high heels during the parade.
Cadet Ivanna Medvid has been training for more than a month. She told Army Inform: “Today, for the first time, training takes place in high-heeled shoes. It’s a little harder than in boots, but we try.”
The decision to march in high heels angered a number of lawmakers after local media picked up images published by the defence ministry.
Elena Kondratyuk, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, joined members of parliament from the “Equal Opportunities” cross-party group to call on defence minister Andrei Taran to reevaluate the decision to have female soldiers wear heels while marching.
“Shoes with heels are incompatible with the combat capability of soldiers, and a ‘Prussian’ step on a parade in such shoes is a deliberate harm to the health of soldiers,” reads their statement.
There are 57,000 women serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, and the country is introducing Nato standards, under which the principle of equality of rights and obligations of servicemen, regardless of gender, applies unconditionally.
In response to the criticism, the defence ministry uploaded a series of pictures to Facebook of female soldiers from other armies wearing high heels.
But Stefanishina pointed out that while the armies of some Nato member countries do issue high heels to women as part of their dress uniform, they are not worn while marching in parades.
Other countries are adjusting their female soldiers’ dress, too.
In May, The US Army announced a change to its grooming policy, permitting female soldiers to wear ponytails, locs, lipstick, and earrings in all uniforms.
And in March, for the first time ever, the Swiss army announced it was going to issue its female recruits women’s underwear, as the force looks to attract more women to its ranks.
At present, Swiss female soldiers are traditionally issued with men’s underwear, but in future two different sets of women’s undergarments, for warmer and colder weather, will be tested and if successful issued.
The army told CNN in a statement that “previous army equipment and uniforms were too little or not at all geared to the specific needs of women”.