On 15 March 2016 UN experts concluded that Svetlana Medvedeva, who graduated in 2005 as a navigation officer, suffered gender-based discrimination when she was denied employment at the helm of a boat. As the Jurist reports, 'Svetlana Medvedeva was selected by a private company after graduating as a navigation officer to work at the helm of a boat in 2012. She was rejected from the position because it had been listed as an occupation that women were restricted from doing.' Subsuently Medvedeva lost a legal suit to force the company to establish safe working conditions that would enable her to be employed on the grounds, Jurist reports, that, in the view of the court, the 'restrictions on women were "aimed" at protecting the reproductive health of women.'
In response to a complaint lodged by Svetlana Medvedeva, UN experts from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have now restated their call for Russia to amend legislation that lists 456 occupations and 38 branches of industry considered by the authorities as too arduous, dangerous or harmful to women’s health, above all their reproductive health. In their assessment the experts wrote that the legislation 'reflects persistent stereotypes concerning the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society that have the effect of perpetuating traditional roles for women as mothers and wives and undermining women’s social status and their educational and career prospects.' The experts found that Russia, as a State party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, is required 'to create safe working conditions in all industries, rather than preventing women from being employed in certain areas and leaving the creation of safe working conditions to the discretion of employers' and also to give equal protection to the reproductive health of women and men.
The website of the OHCHR reports as follows:
'In its findings, the 23-member Committee said that the blanket prohibition, which applies to all women regardless of their age, marital status, ability or desire to have children, constituted a violation of Ms. Medvedeva’s rights to have the same employment opportunities as men and to freely choose her profession and employment. “No evidence has been provided to the Committee that the inclusion of the position of helmperson-motorist in the list of prohibited jobs is based on any scientific evidence that it may be harmful to women’s reproductive health,” members observed in the findings. The denial of employment put Ms. Medvedeva in a position where she could not earn a living through the profession for which she was educated, the Committee said. CEDAW called for her to be given appropriate reparation and compensation, and for the authorities to facilitate her access to jobs for which she is qualified. CEDAW, which has repeatedly criticised countries that have lists of occupations prohibited to women, called on Russia to:
· Review and amend Article 253 of the Labour Code;
· Periodically revise, amend and reduce the list of restricted or prohibited occupations and sectors established by Regulation No. 162 to ensure they apply strictly to protecting maternity and to providing special conditions for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers;
· Promote and facilitate the entry of women into these jobs by improving working conditions and adopting temporary special measures to encourage women’s recruitment in these sectors.'
'Russia’s list of banned jobs for women violated woman’s rights, needs amending – UN experts,' United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, OHCHR, 15 March 2016
'UN experts: Russia list of banned jobs violates women's rights,' Jurist, 15 March 2016