Defense officials in Ukraine are taking flak over plans to have female cadets march in military fatigues and high heels. Activists and opposition lawmakers slammed Defense Minister Andriy Taran last week after photo were released of the women marching in the pumps with heels, which are normally part of the formal dress uniform, the New York Times reports. Critics said plans to have the woman wear heels in an Aug. 24 parade marking the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence were sexist and downplayed women's contribution to the country's military. Thousands of women have served in the country's war against Russia-backed separatists. "Women, like men, fight in combat boots," said Maria Berlinska, who has campaigned for gender equality in the country's armed forces. "During the war, many of our girls died on the battlefield in military uniform."
Three Cabinet members issued a statement noting that 57,000 women serve in Ukraine's military and "have proved their worth not in heels, but with machine guns," the AP reports. "The purpose of any military parade is to demonstrate the military ability of the army. There should be no room for stereotypes and sexism,” they said. Critics also wondered why women were marching in a group when they have been integrated into the armed forces, with many combat roles opening up in 2018. Ukraine's Defense Ministry initially pushed back against criticism but it acknowledged Saturday that the pumps with heels were "inconvenient" to march in, reports the Washington Post. Taran said cadets would be provided with "improved" and "ergonomic" footwear. (Read more Ukraine stories.)