On September 20, 2017 ADC “Memorial” organized side event “The right to work without gender discrimination” within the framework of the OSCE annual meeting on human rights

The problem of the existence of the lists of professions prohibited to women is relevant for a whole region, which consists of ten countries, where women are currently denied access to hundreds of professional occupations because of discriminatory legislative prohibitions and restrictions. These restrictions contradict both the constitutional norms of these countries, progressive laws on the equality between women and men and the anti-discriminatory laws of those countries, which had already adopted them.

Svetlana Voitsekhovskaya, a deputy of the Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament), pointed to a number of ongoing reforms for equal opportunities and gender policies, which took place in Ukraine over the recent years. After the problem of the existence of the list of professions prohibited to women had been raised by Yevgenia Lutsenko, who had collaborated with ADC “Memorial” in preparing a report on the situation in Ukraine for the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW), the Ukrainian authorities including legislator Svetlana Voitsekhovskaya, began to carry out active measures to abolish the discriminatory regulations. As a result, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health recently introduced a legislative initiative to cancel the list of professions prohibited to women, and the latter will soon cease to exist.

Tolekan Ismailova, head of the human rights organization “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan”, reported that in the Central Asian countries women face discrimination on a regular basis, including discrimination in employment. Labor migration significantly complicates the situation of women in the countries of the region. Ismailova noted the absurdity of the prohibitions of certain professions to women, which exist in the respective list in Kyrgyzstan.

Lawyer Dumitru Slusarenko noted that despite a number of progressive anti-discrimination regulations adopted in Moldova and the decision of the national Council for the prevention and elimination of discrimination and provision of equality, which had recognized the list of professions prohibited to women as discriminatory, this list is still in effect in this country. The lawyer said that one of the women who applied for his legal assistance had been refused employment because her position was similar-sounding to the one featured in the list of professions prohibited to women, although her particular occupation had not been explicitly banned.

Yevgenia Markova, one of the few Russian female truck drivers, said that in Russia it was possible for women to get training as a truck driver, but still women could not get on-the-job training and a job in this field because of the existing discriminatory regulations. Trucking companies, which are market leaders in this field in Russia, would not violate the laws, and as a result of that women would never be able to get jobs in the best companies and qualify for higher wages and career opportunities. Employment for women in this professional field can only be obtained in violation of the law, which results in lack of social protection (for example, maternity leave and other support measures for mothers). The presence of powerless employees, Markova said, was beneficial for employers only, and that was why the latter would never defend the rights of female workers. In the case of long-haul trucking, the only “harmful” factor is vibration, which is the same for both passenger cars and trucks of any weight.

Film director Tatiana Chistova, who is working on a film about professions prohibited to women, spoke about the difficulties in finding heroines for her film: women who work in “harmful” professions were afraid to talk to her about their experiences because of fear of losing their jobs. Employers would like to hire more women, but the existing discriminatory legislation does not allow to do so.

Last year ADC “Memorial” invited Svetlana Medvedeva, a boatmaster, who had suffered from this discriminatory list, to make a speech at a similar OSCE event. UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had made a ruling in favor of Medvedeva. At this year’s side event organized by ADC “Memorial” a video was shown about the recent ruling of a Russian court, which had recognized the UN CEDAW decision and had agreed that Russian laws were in contradiction with the international legislation.