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UN condems Russia's gender-discriminatory laws

Photo: Flickr / Bradley Davis

The Russian Federation’s law hinders women from holding certain occupations. UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women concludes it to be discriminatory.

12.05.2016 Av: Nosheen Hotaki

On March 15th of 2016, UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) concluded that the Russian Federation’s law that hinders women from holding certain occupations “undermines women’s social status and their educational and career prospects,” and is therefore gender-based discrimination.

The committee ascertained this decision based on the recent incident when a Russian woman was denied employment at the helm of a boat because the job is listed as a man-only occupation under the Russian law.

In 2009, a woman who was unable to seek a job as the metro train operator sued the state, contesting the list.

In 2000, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed a law into effect that hinders women from presuming particular jobs. This document that was initially drafted and enforced during the Soviet Era prohibits women from holding jobs such as a metro train operator, steel worker, firefighter, and blacksmith.

In 2009, a woman who was unable to seek a job as the metro train operator sued the state, contesting the list. Just recently in 2016, another woman was barred from being employed at the helm of a boat because the job was on the list of “banned occupations for women.”

Though UN experts find the women to have suffered gender-based discrimination, the Russian Supreme Court has time and time again ruled against these sort of cases.

Unemployment in Russia

The unemployment rate in Russia is 5.2%, just 0.3% less than that of the United States and 1.1% more than that of Norway. With Russia’s population being over 143.5 million people, more than 7 million people are unemployed.

Over two-thirds of them are women. Not only does the Russian government refuse to employ women in certain fields, government officials have been found to fire women workers in disparate proportions.

In February of 1993, Genady Meikyan, Russia’s labor minister at the time told Public Radio International, “Why should we employ women when men are out of work? It’s better that men work and women take care of children and do housework. I don’t think women should work when men are doing nothing.”

She continues, stating that most Russian women do not look at it as gender-based discrimination because they like to appear “weak” and they like it when men consider them “weak.”

Ironically, the law that deems certain jobs “too manly” or “too difficult” was initially put in place during the Soviet Era, a time when, “women would repair the roads in the city and also the railways. During maintenance, they would do very hard, manly, heavy work,” says Irina Vasanova, a teacher in Russia, to Public Radio International.

She continues, stating that most Russian women do not look at it as gender-based discrimination because they like to appear “weak” and they like it when men consider them “weak.” In fact, not much interest is invested in gender issues in Russia according to the Carnegie Center’s Mascha Lipman.

Rankings on the Global Gender Gap Report 2014

In 2014, the Russian Federation ranked 75 out of 142 countries when it came to gender rights, according to the World Economic Forum. The country scored high with education and health & survival equality.

The literacy rates for Russian women as well as primary and tertiary education were equal to that of the men in the country and sometimes, even higher. However, for every man who held a managerial position, only 63.9% women did the same.

Women earn 55% of what men earn, $17,295 and $30,933 respectively. The country’s worst ranking was with the political empowerment of women (94 in the world), receiving only 0.16 from 1.00.

Agenda

One may think that since gender-based discrimination is evidently a part of the country’s laws and since the Russian Supreme Court rules against women in these cases, that Russia does not even attempt to increase opacity in the international realm.

However, media outlets such as Sputnik News, that are fully owned and operated by the Russian government, publish deceptive articles, applauding Russia for topping “rankings for women in business,” and surpassing Germany – a country that ranked 12 in the same report where Russia ranked 75.

Sources:

"Happy International Women's Day: Russia Tops Rankings for Women in Business." Sputnik News. March 08, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016

"Human Development Reports." United Nations Development Programme. Accessed May 11, 2016

"Jobs Women Can't Do in Russia." Public Radio International. June 12, 2009. Accessed May 11, 2016

"Russia's List of Banned Jobs for Women Violated Woman's Rights, Needs Amending – UN Experts." United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner. Accessed May 11, 2016

"The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 " World Economic Forum. 2014. Accessed May 11, 2016

"World Gender Gap Index 2013: See How Countries Compare." The Guardian. 2013. Accessed May 11, 2016