In Russia, It’s a Woman’s Job to Challenge Soviet-Era Labor Laws. It took Svetlana Medvedeva five years to fight for her right to become a captain
After being rejected by the shipping company, Medvedeva immediately contested the decision with little success.
She sent letters to numerous ministries but received no response. The St. Petersburg-based Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial (ADC), an NGO that defends the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups, then took up her case.
“In 2012, we filed a lawsuit to the district court to oblige the defendant to employ me and to recognize their initial refusal as a case of discrimination,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times.
The case was first rejected by a district court in Samara and then by a regional court. One year later, her lawyers filed a complaint to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Russia is a state party.
In March 2016, the UN recognized the company’s refusal to employ her as gender discrimination and the list as a violation of women’s rights.
But international recognition didn’t mean the legislation was changed or the list was scrapped. In fact, Medvedeva’s case was once again rejected by the district court in Samara.
That changed last week, when on Sept. 15, after a five-year-long legal battle, the same court recognized her rejection of employment as discriminatory.
“It means a lot to me,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. “There are women, who like me, work in the merchant navy and are denied employment because of this list. But now everything will change.”
In March this year, ADC Memorial launched a campaign with the hashtag “alljobs4allwomen” to change the legislation, not only in Russia but other post-Soviet countries.
“We believe that women can decide for themselves what is good or bad for them — just like men do,” Stefania Kulayeva, the head ADO, told The Moscow Times.
“These professional bans are rooted in gender-stereotypes that present women first of all as mothers, while men can [pursue their] career and have a choice,” she says.
“Women don’t just face discrimination in practice, but also in the law. That has to change.”