Interview with Anna Kanopatskaya, a deputy in The House of Representatives of the VI Session of The National Assembly of The Republic of Belarus #Alljobs4allwomen campaign

We frequently hear the opinion that the list of professions banned for women is a protective measure, since it protects women from arduous work conditions. Is this the case?

If we’re going to speak about proper work conditions, then they should be observed for everyone, man or woman, young or old. In this sense, the list of banned professions for women is discriminatory in nature because it makes it possible to some degree for employers to be less conscientious about work conditions for men, so this list must be revoked. Another argument in favor of revoking this list: a great many regions of the Republic of Belarus have been identified as regions with difficult conditions on the labor market, meaning that it is impossible to find work there. Attractive jobs have not been created and the labor market is not developed for various reasons and circumstances. And if we create restrictions on female labor in the form of these lists, then women will not be able to find any work at all, especially because there are no legal or medical grounds for this list of banned professions. In addition, the Belarusian government has approved Decree No. 3, which compels people to work, while at the same time it has created barriers for people to find a job. Both employers and women know about the existence of this list, so if a woman is still hired for a “banned” job, she is in an unfair position from the start: she could be fired at any moment and her rights are not protected. It works out that with this list, the state is pushing both employers and women to commit a violation. I believe that these reasons should serve as grounds for revoking this list.

Has the list of banned professions had a negative impact on the employment of women in business?

Even though the list of banned professions does not contain any direct bans on female entrepreneurship, it does in actual fact make it difficult to solve the problem of self-employment. When the government speaks about how small businesses and individual enterprises, small and mid-sized businesses must drive the economy, the presence of a list of banned professions slows women down on their path to self-realization and self-employment. For example, if a women wants to buy a tractor and drive it, she can’t do this, even from the standpoint of saving money to minimize operating costs. She cannot be a truck driver. Even according to official statistics of the Republic of Belarus, women are in a more vulnerable situation than men. Discrimination exists in Belarus, this is recognized by national and international experts, but the situation of women is further compounded by restrictions on employment.

How would the list’s revocation impact women living in rural areas?

With the cancellation of the list, the ability for women to find employment, particularly in rural areas, will definitely improve. This will help not just women looking for work, but also the employers that agree to hire them. Because while men have the opportunity to leave the country to earn money, women generally cannot do this because of various circumstances. They remain behind in sparsely populated localities and look for any work there is. And, as a rule, these jobs—all agricultural—are for some reason on the list of jobs banned for women. This list is at the very least unacceptable from the standpoint that employers must make sure that any worker, male or female, works in safe and acceptable conditions. And again, we’re talking about work conditions: it’s the 21st century and modern tractors should be come with power steering, safety forks, anti-dust devices, and air conditioners. This means that work conditions will improve for both men and women.

Photo by Vadim Zamirovsky, TUT.BY