UN CEDAW recommends Azerbaijan to revoke occupational bans for women

Following the consideration of the state report at the 82nd session (June 15-16, 2022), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women addressed a number of important recommendations to Azerbaijan.

In particular, the Committee was concerned about the economic situation of women in Azerbaijan. Women are paid significantly lower wages compared to men, they have limited opportunities in the labor market and are underrepresented in leadership positions, experience unequal distribution of household responsibilities and excessive involvement in unpaid domestic work. Women’s prevalence in low-paid and the informal economy has intensified during the pandemic, often in exploitative conditions. The Committee paid attention to the particularly vulnerable position of women from ethnic minorities, IDPs, migrants, women with disabilities, as well as to a high risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. The government of Azerbaijan announced its intention only to reduce the list of professions prohibited for women from 678 to 241.

The Committee recommended to completely abolish the occupational bans, encourage women to take previously prohibited jobs, and apply restrictions on work only in specific cases. In an alternative report, ADC Memorial and Gender Hub Azerbaijan emphasized that restrictions can only be temporary (for example, in the case of pregnancy or recent childbirth) and should not lead to loss of earnings.

In the field of employment, the Committee also recommended:

  • To take targeted measures to increase women’s access to formal employment, including leadership positions and higher-paying jobs in traditionally male occupations, through the provision of vocational training, promotion of female-predominant hiring, increase the quantity and quality of childcare and preschool services in urban and rural areas, and to take action to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s employment;
  • To ensure maternity protection for women working in the informal economy; to help young mothers to return to work; to promote equal sharing of household and childcare responsibilities between women and men, including through parental leave, and introduce specific provisions on employer liability for discrimination against women in career development, recruitment, promotion and professional training;
  • To enact legislation specifically prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, ensure that victims have access to effective remedies, effectively investigate complaints of sexual harassment, prosecute and adequately punish perpetrators, and protect victims from retaliation;
  • To improve access to employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women such as women from ethnic minorities, IDP women, migrant women and women with disabilities;
  • To ratify the International Labor Organization Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190).

The recommendations of the Committee also relate to other issues raised in the report of ADC Memorial and Gender Hub Azerbaijan. In particular, in order to overcome patriarchal stereotypes and harmful practices, the Committee recommended: to implement the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Selective Abortions; to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy and programs to introduce modern gender ideas into public discourse and public consciousness in order to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society.

The Committee paid great attention to the problem of gender-based violence and recommended: criminalize all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic violence, giving preference to criminal proceedings; define domestic violence in law and take into account the special protection needs of disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women, including women with disabilities, migrant women and internally displaced women; to effectively use protection orders; to prosecute perpetrators and police officers who do not respond to reports of any type of violence against women and girls, ensure that all such cases are effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice; to ensure that women and girls have access to justice and lighten the burden of proof for complainants; to strengthen victim support and protection services, including providing a 24/7 hotline, adequate and accessible shelters, medical care, psychosocial counseling and economic support for victims in all regions of the country; to intensify awareness-raising among the general public about the criminal nature of all forms of gender-based violence; to raise awareness of the general public and law enforcement officials about the Istanbul Convention.