Bans on women’s labor persist: Russia ignores international standards and Russian court rulings

Last week the Russian Ministry of Labor published an amended draft of the list of harmful, heavy and dangerous jobs prohibited for women. Despite the fact that it proposed to replace specific professions with the list of hazardous factors of production, which, according to the authorities, were unacceptable for women, this reform still fails to solve the problem of gender discrimination in labor sphere.

The Russian authorities ignored the UN CEDAW recommendations to abolish all discriminatory lists of professions prohibited for women and the Committee’s decision concerning individual complaint made by vessel navigator Svetlana Medvedeva, which had recognized professional bans as violating the principle of equality of women and their right to work. Preservation of the list of occupations prohibited for women contradicts the decisions of Russian courts, including the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which has demanded to review the case of Svetlana Medvedeva, and the Samara Regional Court, which has recognized discrimination in Medvedeva’s case.

In 2010 the experts of the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommended the revision of the Russian system of protective measures that deprived women of equal opportunities in the labor sphere, pointing to the need to implement the ILO Convention No. 111 concerning discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. It is obvious that the fundamental Convention No. 111 virtually abolished the outdated ILO Convention No. 45 “Convention concerning the Employment of Women on Underground Work in Mines of all Kinds” (1935), which the Russian authorities refer to in justifying restrictions on women’s work.

Preservation of prohibitions on work in certain areas contradicts the principles of non-discrimination and equality established by international norms, while it also excludes from the list the professions that no longer exist in modern production. However, this will in no way improve the actual access of women to jobs. The reform proposed by the new draft will be only nominal, and the real situation for women, such as the vessel navigator Svetlana Medvedeva, who had struggled for the right to have the desired profession for years, will not change.