An appeal to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women delivered on behalf of ship navigator Svetlana Medvedeva

In June 2012 ADC “Memorial” was approached by Svetlana Medvedeva, who has faced impossibility to take a practical course and thus complete education in ship navigation due to the ban of her shipping company on her performance as a motor-mechanic/helmsman. In this the company, Samara river passenger company (SRPP), has referred to section XXXIII of article 404 of the List of hard types of work with hazardous and harmful labor conditions, which bans employing of women.

This regulation is clearly discriminatory from the human rights point. There can be no state ban on particular type of work based on sex. Even if some types of work are hazardous for reproductive functions of women (which is usually the ground for the existence of such regulations in the first place), the role of state control should be to minimize the harm, to warn the candidates for this work of the consequences, if the harm cannot be reduced, or to get a written confirmation from them that they were properly informed about it. Women can either not plan to use their reproductive function or could be in a situation that they already cannot have children (and the law in many cases allows for voluntary sterilization of women). “The List of hard types of work” puts a ban on some professions for all women, regardless of their situation or age, and most importantly, their own will. It is also noteworthy that in the Russian legislation there is no such list of hard types of work banning men to perform them, although some types of work are harmful for their reproductive functions (i.e. working in radioactive conditions) or the health of their future children.


Svetlana Medvedeva has appealed to court with a complaint against discrimination based on sex. The lawyers of ADC “Memorial” helped her to prepare court appeal against SRPP demanding provision of appropriate labor conditions and employment. The claim was based on the Russian Constitution and the Labor Code, which guarantee equality of men and women.

On August 20, 2012 Samara district court has ruled against Medvedeva’s claim. Court of appeal and later court of cassation have left this court ruling intact. The initial court decision was based on the assumption that the legal principle of equality could not be observed without taking into account the commonly assumed social role of woman in human reproduction.

In April 2013 the case of female ship navigator Svetlana Medvedeva was presented to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.