On July 24th 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation approved the appeal lodged by Svetlana Medvedeva and called for a retrial in the case of the refusal from the Samara river passenger company to hire the woman as a motorist/heslman (captain of a small river boat). In 2012, the disctrict court of the Samara region had refused Svetlana’s request on the ground that a governement decree establishes a list of 456 “forbidden” for women professions, which includes motorist/helsman.
As she did not win the case at national courts, Svetlana Medvedeva, with the support of ADC Memorial, filed a complaint for discrimination to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 2016, the Committee took its first decision concerning Russia by declaring the case of Ms Medvedeva as being a violation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against women. The Committee asked the Russian authorities to restore the applicant’s labor rights. Upon receiving this decision from CEDAW, Svetlana tried to cancel the previous court decisions but her request was denied on the ground that the decision of the UN Committee is not obligatory and cannot be considered as a basis for a revision of the decision of a Russian court. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did not agree with this, cancelled all previous court decisions, and tried to reconsider the case taking into account the position of the UN Committee. Svetlana Medvedeva was represented by lawyer Dmitry Bartenev with the support of ADC Memorial.
The decision of the Supreme Court became a new important step in the fight against women’s discrimination in the labor sphere. Despite the recommendations of the CEDAW to the Russian Federation to abolish the list of professions banned for women, following the individual complaint from Svetlana Medvedeva, the list still exists as a part of the labor legislation of the Russian Federation. Similar lists are also in force in many other post-soviet countries.