March being the month of visibility of women’s struggles for equal rights, we present here some news on how women continue their battles against labor restrictions in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
In Russia, starting January 1, 2021, a shortened list of professional occupations prohibited for women was introduced. Revision of the list had been facilitated through the cooperation of various human rights defenders with trade unions and the media. However, this largely is the merit of the women themselves, the heroines of the #AlJjobs4AllWomen campaign, who had actively advocated giving them the right to work in their chosen professional occupations. Employment opportunities for women in the transportation sector in Russia have been significantly expanded this year: first women drivers of subway and electric trains have already started their work, while more and more women drive trucks now and work on maritime and riverine vessels. But not all professional occupations are yet available to women. It is necessary to abolish the prohibitions that continue until now, and the work for this purpose continues. In early March, Inna Svyatenko, head of the Federation Council’s (upper house of Russian parliament) Committee on Social Policy, sent an appeal to the Ministry of Labor requesting a further revision of the list of professional occupations prohibited for women and expansion of the list of permitted types of work for women in civil aviation. On March 24, 2021, Deputy Labor Minister Andrey Pudov announced that the government was preparing a decree on the admission of women to work as aeronautical technicians and the possibility of further reducing the list of prohibited professional occupations (in case of positive results of a special assessment of labor conditions at the workplace).
Belarusian “Her Rights” Centre for the Promotion of Women’s Rights continues its struggle to abolish the list of professional occupations prohibited for women in Belarus. Earlier the Centre prepared joint report “Discrimination against women in the employment sphere in Belarus” in cooperation with the ADC Memorial for the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW). ”Her Rights” Centre currently is in correspondence with the state bodies of the Republic of Belarus concerning the possibility of canceling the list of professional prohibitions for women. In October 2020, Irina Kostevich, Belarusian Minister of Labor and Social Protection, announced the country’s plans to cancel this list, but so far there no changes have been introduced into the national labor legislation.
Throughout February 2021, “Her Rights” Centre held discussions on women’s labor rights and organized meetings with experts and female workers in the professional fields, where women rarely work.
The Centre believes that “through advocating the abolition of the list of professional occupations prohibited for women, we advocate better jobs and improved working conditions for all people, regardless of gender. Work should be safe for everyone, not just women. It is important to improve working conditions to the better level of safety for all people in all sectors. This process can last for years, but it can only begin when the protection of the health of all citizens becomes a priority for the state”.
Belarusian Organization of Working Women currently carries out its information campaign “All jobs for all women in Belarus” (as part of the #AlJjobs4AllWomen international campaign) in order to push for abolition the list of jobs and professional occupations prohibited for women in this country.
Human rights movement “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan” seeks to abolish the existing discriminatory bans on women’s work in Kyrgyzstan. ADC Memorial in collaboration with the experts of this organization has submitted reports to the Committees of the UN Human Rights Council on numerous occasions, while the two organizations have also provided for national advocacy on the abolition of gender bans in the labor sphere. On March 3, 2021, “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan” sent and published an public call to the new government of the Kyrgyz Republic, its Prime Minister Mr. U. Maripov, concerning the “Plan of Priority Government Measures for 100 Days”, which also mentioned the need to cancel the list of professional occupations prohibited for women: “We ask you to pay attention to inequality in labor and the importance of supporting the partnership of government and business with independent trade unions in order to protect the rights of workers both in the Kyrgyz Republic and abroad. It is important to urgently cancel the list of professional occupations prohibited for women and provide equal access to jobs through the governmental resolution of the Kyrgyz Republic, as there still exists open discrimination and humiliation of women’s rights”.
On March 5, 2021, during the online conference “The Right to Work: Combating Gender Discrimination and Violence” on the platform of the International monitoring mission on labor rights in Central Asia, BDK again stressed the need to abolish the list of professions prohibited for women in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan’s Public Foundation “Insan Leilek” also joined in, carrying out its information campaign against gender discrimination in the professional sphere “Your profession is your choice”.
During the 43rd United Nations’ Session one year ago the official delegation of Kazakhstan supported the UN recommendations to abolish the list of professional occupations prohibited for women. In early August 2020, Elvira Azimova, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan, sent an official letter to the President of the Kazakhstan Mr. Tokayev with a proposal to exclude from the Labor Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan the legal norm on restricting female labor in heavy, harmful and hazardous types of work, while at the same time expanding the list of medical counter-indications for both men and women working in hazardous working conditions.
Kazakhstan’s feminist initiative “Feminita” continues to carry out advocacy and information work for the abolition of the list of professional occupations prohibited for women, as the latter restricts professional choice of women in the country. Earlier “Feminita” together with ADC “Memorial” have raised the problem of discriminatory bans in Kazakhstan in a joint report to the UN CEDAW session. While demonstrating the vulnerability and economic insecurity of women in Kazakhstan during the Covid-19 pandemic, “Feminita” showed with arguments that by denying women the choice of a profession, the latter were not given equal opportunities to survive the global crisis with minimal losses for themselves.