Side event of FIDH and ADC “Memorial” on gender discrimination at the OSCE ODIHR meeting

Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” took part in a side event on “Gender Discrimination Issues in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Inequality at Work, Domestic Violence”, which was organized together with the Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) during the OSCE Human Dimension Meeting.

Various experts spoke about violations of women’s rights in the sphere of employment in the region, as well as the problem of lack of protection from gender-based violence in Russia and Belarus.

ADC “Memorial” welcomed the recent abolition of the lists of professions prohibited for women in Ukraine and Uzbekistan, as well as reduction of respective lists in Kazakhstan and Russia. After 2021, thanks to the struggle of the heroines of the #Alljobs4allwomen campaign, Russian women will be able to get access to dozens of jobs, including popular and well-paid occupations in the transportation sector (truck drivers, drivers of buses, subway trains, navigators in maritime and riverine fleet). Some employers will open special courses in educational institutions of various levels, which will provide instruction for professional occupations previously inaccessible for women (for example, representatives of the Moscow metro have already announced their plans in this respect).

Lawyer Valentina Frolova, who is involved in dealing with the widespread problem of domestic and gender-based violence for Russia, spoke about significant achievements in the field of strategic legal cases in international institutions. In 2017, for the first time for Russia, United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recognized the lack of proper reaction to domestic violence against women on the part of state authorities was gender discrimination. The Committee’s observation that in Russia the cases of domestic violence were subject to private prosecution, while the state was clearly obliged to provide adequate protection to women, was of particular importance. Thus, the victim should not be forced to independently play the role of the prosecutor in a criminal case, collecting evidence herself and supporting the prosecution, including having an obligation to constantly appear in person during the court proceedings. In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) supported the position, which recognized private prosecution of domestic violence as unacceptable in the case of ‘Volodina v. Russia’. Valentina Frolova emphasized that Russia was the last country-member of the Council of Europe, which lacked legislation against domestic violence; and, together with Azerbaijan, one of the two countries that have not joined the Istanbul Convention.

Irina Solomatina described the situation in Belarus, she said that the country’s authorities intended to reduce the list of professions prohibited for women, which should provide additional jobs for women in rural areas and industrial cities, where they were often forced to accept unofficial work in difficult and hard working conditions without receiving proper compensaton. The problem of gender-based violence in Belarus is further complicated by the taboo on the discussion of this topic within a sizeable part of society and the unwillingness of women to seek protection of their rights because of fear of facing negative consequences.