As the war in Ukraine enters its third week and the refugee crisis in neighboring countries intensifies, among the many heartbreaking stories in the international spotlight is the separation at the border of Ukrainian families fleeing the fighting. As The New York Times’ Daily podcast reported, fathers, brothers, boyfriends and husbands as well as single men between the ages of 18 and 60 are being forced to stay and enlist in Ukraine’s military, while women of all ages are not only being allowed over borders but actively encouraged to flee.
This denial of the right to flee on the basis of age and sex is among the most life-threatening and globally pervasive forms of gender discrimination and a violation of men’s human rights. And in addition to being a heartrending situation for the women who must flee without their loved ones, the separation from male family members puts refugee women at greater risk and under greater strain as well.
But more importantly for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the policy of enforcing the draft on men, including fathers, but not on young, single, able-bodied women is counterproductive to his war aims in several key respects.