On September 15, 2017, the Samara District Court completed its review of the case of Svetlana Medvedeva v. the Samara River Passenger Enterprise. The court found that the internationally-recognized ban on discrimination against women means that women cannot be denied employment in “dangerous” specializations, even though a ban of this nature has been enshrined in Russian law.
This case was reviewed five years after the Samara District Court’s 2012 decision rejecting Svetlana’s claim based on the fact that a list of 456 “banned” professions for woman (including the position of motorist/helmsperson) had been established by government resolution. The cause for the reconsideration of the case was a 2016 decision regarding Svetlana Medvedeva’s complaint that was adopted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. (This was the Committee’s first decision related to Russia.) In July 2017, the RF Supreme Court noted that this decision was a ground for reviewing the case in light of new circumstances and sent the case to the district court for reconsideration.
During reconsideration, the Samara River Passenger Enterprise held that Russian laws protecting women from unhealthy work conditions have priority and that there was no evidence of discrimination. Svetlana Medvedeva asserted that Russian law was in fact depriving her of the ability to find a job in her specialization and advance her career under the pretense of protecting women. Svetlana is the mother of two children, and the denial of this job meant that the opportunity to get higher-paying work on a motor vessel was closed to her. A ban on hiring women for the position of motorist/helmsperson is direct discrimination; it means that only men can get high-paying jobs.
The decision in this case (the text is not ready yet) shows that discrimination against women occurs not just when an employer knowingly violates the rights of women, but also in cases when restrictions are placed on women’s rights under the well-meaning pretense of protecting these very women. Thanks to the persistence of Svetlana Medvedeva, the internationally-recognized understanding of discrimination was confirmed by a court and the Russian government was admonished to cancel the list of professions banned for women.
Svetlana Medvedeva’s interests were represented by Dmitry Bartenev with support from ADC “Memorial.”