Russia must implement its international obligations to protect women from discrimination

Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial, Charitable Foundation Sphere and Citizens’ Watch in cooperation with Women.Prison.Society project have prepared alternative information on violation of the rights’ of women and vulnerable groups in Russia for the 80th session of the UN CEDAW Committee.

In their report, the human rights organizations draw the Committee’s attention to the intensification of repression against women who are active in public and political life. In other words, those are political opposition figures, independent journalists, feminist activists, eco-activists, human rights defenders, all of whom are frequently left with no choice but to leave Russia because of the pressure, criminal and administrative persecution. For many activist women, detention, arrests, restriction and deprivation of liberty are their new reality.

In the context of detention, specific risks are faced by women to vulnerable groups. For instance, there are transgender women who face systemic discrimination because the penal system has no regulations on how to work with them; migrant women who are placed in foreign national detention centers and are separated from their children; stateless women who are unable to obtain documents and legal status and who are at deportation centers although they cannot be forced out to another country. The conditions for pregnant women and women with children in prisons are inhumane and traumatizing for children.

At the background of crackdown on civil society, the authorities allow aggressive sexist groups who propagandize sexism, homophobia, patriarchy to act blatantly and with impunity. Harassment and bullying on the Internet lead to hate crimes in real life. The aggression level toward LGBTQ people remains high.

The law against ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors’ which was recognized by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as discriminatory, continues to be applied and is instrumentalized to muzzle activists and LGBTQ community on the whole. Moreover, there are LBT women bringing up children who are at risk of their parental rights’ violation; there have been documented cases when LBT women had their labor rights violated, which also includes those of them who work at educational institutions. The fate of LBT women in the North Caucasus republics, for whom fleeing the region quite often is the only means of escaping persecution from relatives and the police, appears especially alarming.

The situation of women from traditional ethnic groups remains difficult. This is particularly true with regards to the Roma communities where women and girls are experiencing both discrimination from outside and pressure coming from patriarchal communities. Human rights defenders emphasize that the right of Roma girls to education is continuously undermined.

Russia fulfilled some recommendations made during the CEDAW’s last review, i.e. on lifting restrictions on women’s access to employment, and partially shortened the list of banned occupations. As of January 1, 2021, almost all restrictions on jobs in transport were removed for women. Such a change became possible, first and foremost, thanks to the battle women waged to revoke professional bans and the Committee’s crucial decision in the case of Svetlana Medvedeva (2015), in which an instance of gender discrimination was proven, and which can now be used by women in further activism. Human rights defenders insist on revoking the whole list of banned professions for women.

The Committee will review the Russian Federation’s official periodic report on November 2-3, 2021, during its 80th session.