UN CEDAW asked Russia and Uzbekistan about professional bans for women and situation of vulnerable groups

During its 78th pre-session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) compiled lists of questions to Russian and Uzbek authorities. The members of the Committee drew special attention to the particularly vulnerable position of women during the pandemic of Covid-19, inquired about the measures taken by the authorities of both states to overcome inequalities and specifically protect women and girls from violence.

Uzbek authorities will have to report about plans to enact legislation that protects women from multiple and intersectional discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), and also to report on developing a comprehensive strategy to eliminate discriminatory gender stereotypes, patriarchal attitudes and harmful practices.

The Committee inquired about measures to ensure access of girls, especially those from vulnerable groups, to secondary and higher education, as well as availability of education about gender equality in school curriculum, the promotion of tolerance based on SOGI and sex education. Turning to the topic of women’s reproductive health, experts asked about the steps taken to legalize abortion and measures to inform minors about modern contraceptive methods, indicating that sterilization could be carried out exclusively at the request of women themselves.

Regarding employment issues, UN CEDAW members asked Uzbekistan to explain the need for existing restrictions on employment for women, which were spelled out in the list of recommended industries and professional occupations, and whether these were proportional for the protection of maternity. According to the experts, Article 225 of the Labor Code, which prohibits women from working in certain professional positions, should be abolished, and in order to guarantee women’s access to all professional occupations of their choice it was necessary to improve working conditions and safety in general.

Noting the problem of harmful traditional practices, such as early marriages, polygamy and unregistered religious marriages, the experts asked for additional information on how Uzbek state fought against them, in particular, whether women were in a position to exercise their right to divorce of their own accord.

CEDAW, as well as several other UN Committees, has drawn attention to the situation of vulnerable groups of women and asked Uzbek authorities to report on measures aimed at eliminating harmful practices and discrimination against girls and women from the Mugat (Lyuli) ethnic minority. Questions were also posed regarding LBTI women: whether crimes against them were being investigated, whether forced marriages were being prevented, SOGI-based crimes criminalized and access to medical services, including reproductive health and transgender transition procedures, provided. While agreeing with other international bodies, the Committee’s experts considered it necessary to abolish Article 120 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, which criminalized homosexual relations. Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” had reported in greater detail about the situation of LBTI women in Uzbekistan in its report “LGBTI + in the Central Asian Region: Repression, Discrimination, Exclusion”.

Given the lack of a comprehensive legislation and legal definitions protecting women from various forms of discrimination, Russian authorities were required to provide explanations on why additional anti-discrimination norms have not yet been adopted. The Committee inquired about plans to enact legislation to punish sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence and gender-based violence.

Paying attention to the problem of widespread gender stereotypes and patriarchal views, the experts noted the need to combat them in educational system and asked for information on the development of a strategy to eradicate them.

A number of questions posed by the Committee were devoted to the list of professional occupations prohibited for women in Russia, in particular, on how necessary was the exclusion of women from the labor sphere, how women themselves participated in the process of lifting professional prohibitions, whether employers prioritized employment of women when creating safer working conditions, how the state aimed to attract women to non-traditional employment spheres in order to eliminate segregation and wage gap. ADC “Memorial” has been carrying out #Alljobs4allwomen campaign for a number of years in order to abolish the discriminatory lists of professions prohibited for women, which violates not only their right to self-realization, but also leads to worsening of their economic situation.

Raising questions about the importance of women’s reproductive health, UN CEDAW experts asked for information on existing restrictions on access to safe abortion and the level of access to modern contraception in Russia.

Members of the Committee, concerned about the high level of gender-based violence in Northern Caucasus, requested statistics on criminal penalties, including those for honor killings, as well as information on measures to eradicate and prevent harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and polygamy.

The Committee paid special attention to the situation of vulnerable groups of women, about which ADC “Memorial” and the Russian LGBT Network had submitted a report: indigenous peoples, migrant women and LBT women. Russia will have to report on how its laws ensure access of indigenous women to traditional lands and natural resources, what measures have been taken to protect LBT women in Northern Caucasus, and also statistics on the number of detained migrants and for how long they were kept in detention centers for foreign citizens for a period of the last three years.

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