In 2016 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the CEDAW) adopted its views in the first case against Russia by Svetlana Medvedeva who had been banned from becoming a helmsperson-motorist with a Russian river navigation company. The UN Committee criticized as discriminatory the list of prohibited jobs for women which included over 400 professions. The CEDAW acknowledged that the prohibition was motivated by the need to protect women from harmful work conditions. However the Russian Constitutional Court in a similar case rejected such justification as manifestly discriminatory. The article discusses the difference in approaches to understanding discrimination against women between the CEDAW Committee and the Russian Constitutional Court. The author provides a brief historical overview of the legislative measures restricting women’s access to “harmful” professions in the Soviet times and in modern Russia as well as an unsuccessful attempt to challenge this ban through the constitutional complaint. The analysis of the legal reasoning of the Russian Constitutional Court reveals conceptual differences to understanding discrimination against women between this Court and the CEDAW. The article argues that paternalistic approach of the Constitutional Court based on the doctrine of a “special social role” of a woman sits ill with the interpretation of the Convention under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The author suggests that the Russian Constitutional Court can still play a key role in implementing the views of the CEDAW Committee in the Russian legal system by reversing its previous findings and by means of progressive interpretation of the constitutional equality provisions in light of the modern human rights standards.
About the author
Dmitri Bartenev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, St. Petersburg State University.
Bartenev D. (2016) Zapreshchyonnye professii dlya zhenshchin: novyy povod dlya dialoga Konstitutsionnogo Suda Rossii i Komiteta OON? [Prohibited professions for women: a new cause for the dialogue between the Russian Constitutional Court and a UN Committee?]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, no.3, pp.37–47. (In Russian).
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