The problem of discrimination of women in Armenia and Belarus

For the 65th session of the UN Committee on Elimination of Dicrimination against Women, ADC Memorial submitted two alternative reports; a report “Discrimination against Women from Vulnerable Groups in Armenia” was prepared in partnership with the Civil Society Institute, a report “Discrimination against Women in the Employment Sphere in Belarus” was prepard with the assistance of Her Rights Center.

The situation of women in Armenia and Belarus remains difficult for a number of reasons: patriarchal stereotypes are widespread, pronounced gender discrimination in the employment sphere aggravates the difficult economic situation of women, poverty, and unemployment.

Neither in Armenia, nor in Belarus the laws prohibitting discrimination are adopted, there is no clear definition of gender discrimination, as well as no successful application of constitutional norms on equality of men and women at courts.

Both Armenia and Belarus have a list of professions and spheres of activity that are “hazardous” to women and prohibited to women of child-bearing age. This means that women are viewed primarily as the agents of childbirth and not as professionals who are free to choose the jobs they want.

With this type of approach, the government conveys the idea that women are merely agents of childbirth and motherhood. It deprives them of the ability to choose and exercise their right to work, while at the same time completely ignoring their wish and (or) ability to have children and whether or not they already have children. Obviously, even when conditions may be hazardous, it is the woman (and not the state) that must decide what she wants: to have a job from the list or to take care of her health for a possible future pregnancy. CEDAW UN recognized the list of forbidden for women professions as discrimination: to Russian Federation was given a recommendation to cancel the law and practice of the professions forbidden for women.

 A number of institutes of higher education place restrictions on the possibility at all or the number of women that can be accepted to several faculties (primarily in military specializations) by creating different admissions criteria for male and female applicants.

Women almost always fail in defending their rights at court; judges are ignorant in concepts of gender discrimination, gender based violence, sexual harassment. The situation is especially dramatic for women from vulnerable groups, who frequently face multiple forms of discrimination, and for female migrants. Female members of sexual minorities also face displays of hate and violence.

Human Rights defenders insist that to overcome discrimination against women, the governments of Armenia and Belarus must adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that considers all forms and grounds of discrimination, including discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and foreigners and stateless people, as well as discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

With a view to the full exercise of labor rights, the governments must revoke the list of professions prohibited to women and guarantee that women have an equal opportunity of being accepted for certain specializations (including military specializations) at institutes of higher education. Special attention should be paid to the education of girls, especially belonging to traditional communities, in order to give them an opportunity of successful professional development.

The protection of motherhood should not cause women additional vulnerability when applying for a job, choosing a profession, or advancing in their careers. Women must have the same opportunities as men in all areas.

List of issues on discrimination and violation of rights of the vulnerable groups and women in Armenia