Kazakhstan plans to lift professional bans for women by end of 2021

Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” welcomes the decision of the Government of Kazakhstan to cancel in the near future the list of jobs prohibited for women. This measure to eliminate discrimination against women became one of the points of the “Plan of Priority Measures in the Sphere of Human Rights”, which was approved by the Kazakh government on June 11, 2021.

In recent years Kazakhstan saw some active struggle for gender equality in the sphere of work. As part of the #AllJobs4AllWomen campaign in 2019, Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” and several NGOs from Kazakhstan submitted a coalition report to the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) calling for the lifting of professional bans for women. Based on the results of consideration of the report, CEDAW recommended the government of Kazakhstan to abolish the list of professions prohibited for women and to provide real access for women to these jobs. Members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2019 also recommended that the Kazakh authorities review the list of professional occupations prohibited for women and make sure that restrictions were applied strictly to protect motherhood and were based solely on medical indications. About a year ago during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the official delegation of Kazakhstan supported the recommendations to abolish the list of professions prohibited for women. In early August 2020, Elvira Azimova, Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan, officially appealed to the President of the country with an initiative to exclude from the Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan the legal norm restricting female labor in heavy, harmful and hazardous types of work, but to expand instead the list of medical contraindications for both men and women in hazardous working conditions.

The government’s “Plan of Priority Measures in the Sphere of Human Rights” contains other important provisions, for example, the legislative expansion of mechanisms for the realization of citizens’ rights to freedom of association. This problem is extremely urgent in Kazakhstan, because it also concerns organizations fighting for women’s rights. Our colleagues and co-authors of the CEDAW report from the Kazakhstan feminist initiative “Feminita” have been unsuccessfully trying to register a legal entity in Kazakhstan since December 2017. On May 29, 2021, unidentified persons and police officers disrupted the event of “Feminita” in Shymkent, while the human rights activists and co-founders of “Feminita” Zhanar Sekerbayeva and Gulzada Serzhan were violently detained and taken to Almaty.

Among other important points of the Plan are measures to ensure the rights of victims of human trafficking: legalization of victims in Kazakhstan and the provision of social services to them, improvement of criteria for assessing cruel treatment and the introduction of a separate clinical protocol for effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as proper punishment under the Istanbul Protocol, clarification of the definition of “torture” in the Criminal and Criminal-Procedural Codes of Kazakhstan, the introduction of the legal definition of “cruel treatment”.

In addition, by the end of 2021, it is planned to complete the procedure for ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will result in recognizing the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to accept and consider communications from individuals who are victims of violations of their rights by the State party.

Drawing by Daria Moroz from Feminita’s webpage on professions prohibited for women

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