Ukraine’s military has come under mass criticism after it released photos showing women soldiers marching in heels at a rehearsal for a military parade.
The women had been preparing for an upcoming military parade on Aug. 24, when the country will mark 30 years of independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The photos immediately sparked outrage, with people criticizing the decision as sexist and misogynistic.
“Walking in the heat on our roads, the military risks injury, damage to shins, ligaments and even rubbing their feet,” opposition lawmaker Inna Sovsun wrote on Facebook. “Why? To bring to life someone’s stereotypes about the only role of a woman as a beautiful doll?”
Another lawmaker, Iryna Gerashchenko, said that she initially thought the photos were a hoax.
Heels are a part of women cadets’ dress uniform for formal occasions but are not a part of field uniforms.
Several lawmakers have called on defense minister Andriy Taran to apologize, bringing high heels to parliament and urging him to wear them to the parade.
Maria Berlinska, an activist campaigning for gender equality within the army, said the parade should showcase the military strengths, but this decision was only to “titillate senior officers in the grandstands,” the BBC reported.
“Women, like men, fight in combat boots,” Berlinska said on Facebook.
Women have been allowed to serve in Ukraine’s armed forces since 1993, and roughly 15% of the armed forces, or about 31,000 members, are women.
Following the backlash, which included a protest in front of the Ministry of Defense, Taran said on Saturday that “improved” and “ergonomic” shoes will be made available “in the shortest possible time.”
The military also acknowledged the difficulty of marching in heels in a press release, which included photos of women wearing boots.