UN CEDAW urged Turkmen authorities to ensure women’s labor rights

Following the consideration of the 5th state report of Turkmenistan on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has adopted its final recommendations to the country during its 70th session.

Members of the CEDAW urged the authorities of Turkmenistan to change the country’s legislation, to prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, to exclude all discriminatory provisions from the nation’s laws, including restrictions on women’s access to a number of professions.

The experts of the Committee urged the Turkmen authorities to abolish discriminatory lists of professions prohibited for women, while keeping only protective measures aimed at pregnant women and mothers caring for their babies. Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” also advocates abolition of the lists of professions prohibited for women as it continues its campaign #AllJobs4allWomen.

While noting the positive impact of the recent educational reforms, CEDAW experts noted the lack of progress in promoting equality in the professional sphere and economic opportunities for women and men in Turkmenistan, which is also reflected in the existing wage differences. Many women hold low-paid positions in unskilled jobs, mainly in the agricultural sector, but very few women work in other sectors of industry. The close relationship between education and employment, according to the members of the UN Committee, requires the state to implement programs aimed at improving access to vocational and higher education for women, including to positions rarely occupied by women, and adoption of measures needed to protect women from harassment in workplaces, where men dominate.

Stressing the inadequacy of measures taken by the Turkmen state to overcome gender stereotypes, CEDAW considered it necessary not only to recommend developing programs aimed at achieving equality between women and men, but also called to reject discriminatory practices such as special requirements for the appearance of women working in public service and education, restrictions on the movement of women (existing problems in acquiring driver’s licenses by women), the difficulty of travel for unaccompanied women in Turkmenistan and beyond, forced early marriages, examination of girls by a gynecologist to determine their virginity, etc.

Obstacles to the departure of girls and women for work or training abroad often force them to return to Turkmenistan, while there are also cases of threats against members of their families. The Committee urged the authorities to ensure security for these women and their families.

Among other issues considered by the UN CEDAW, the experts pointed out the need to create opportunities for safe work of female human rights defenders and employees of non-governmental organizations.

Noting discrimination and hate speech against non-Turkmen women, members of ethnic minorities, people who have non-Turkmen names and surnames, the UN CEDAW called on the country’s government to adopt measures for respecting the rights and guaranteeing equality for non-Turkmen women in various spheres.

Pointing out the problem of violation of the rights of stateless persons, including the difficulties they face in getting education and employment, UN experts called on the authorities of Turkmenistan to simplify the procedure for granting citizenship and refugee status, to guarantee foreigners living in Turkmenistan access to basic services.

In two years Turkmenistan is expected to report on the implementation of some of these recommendations, in particular, providing results of the studies of how education reforms affect the problem of women’s underrepresentation in many professions, especially in highly paid jobs where men predominate.