The situation of women’s rights in Russia and Kyrgyzstan was evaluated at the recent 80th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. A number of important recommendations of the Committee to both countries relate to violations of gender equality in employment.
The Committee has repeatedly recommended that the countries of our region, which inherited the list of prohibited professions for women from Soviet legislation, abandon this discriminatory norm. In the strategic decision on the Svetlana Medvedeva case (2015), the UN CEDAW recognized professional bans for women as discrimination – it has become one of the important arguments in the advocacy for women’s equal right to work. Since 2017, when ADC Memorial launched the regional campaign #AllJobs4AllWomen, recommendations on revision of the restrictive approach to women’s work in the ex-Soviet countries have been given not only by the UN CEDAW, but also by other UN Committees, and progress has been made in a number of countries. Thus, the lists of banned professions were cancelled in Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Legislative reforms in Moldova and Kazakhstan appeared to be the most advanced, as discriminatory articles were excluded from the labor codes. In Ukraine and Uzbekistan, only by-laws directly establishing lists of banned professions were abolished, while the labor codes remained not amended.
In Russia, the Labor Code has not been changed, and the list of banned professions has only been reduced. However, since 2021, women in the transport sector (metro and railway train drivers, truckers, sailors) are already employed legally. The further reduction of the list has also been announced, but many occupations remain banned to women. Raising this issue in an alternative report to the UN CEDAW, ADC Memorial insists on complete abolition of professional bans and exclusion of the discriminatory norms from the Labor Code. On its 80th session, The Committee recommended Russian authorities to revise the list in order to eliminate discriminatory gender stereotypes.
In Kyrgyzstan, the need of abolishing the list of prohibited professions has long been discussed by the civil society. Within the framework of the #AllJobs4AllWomen campaign, the Kyrgyz Family Planning Alliance, partner of ADC Memorial and co-author of the alternative report to the UN CEDAW, actively promoted gender equality in employment. This problem is also raised by the Human Rights movement Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan and its activists.
During the constructive dialogue at the 80th session of the UN CEDAW, representatives of the Kyrgyzstan state delegation expressed their readiness to review the restrictive approach to women’s right work and put gender equality at the forefront. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee recommended to amend the restrictive articles 218 and 303 of the Labour Code, to review the list of banned occupations (Government Decree No. 158 of 24 March 2000), to facilitate women’s access to such professions and to ensure proportional and individual approach to any occupational restrictions (now the prohibitions apply to all women, regardless of their age, wish and/or ability to have children).