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UN experts: Russia list of banned jobs violates women's rights

[JURIST] UN experts on Tuesday concluded [press release] that a Russian woman suffered gender-based discrimination when she was denied employment at the helm of a boat. Svetlana Medvedeva was selected by a private company after graduating as a navigation officer to work at the helm of a boat in 2012. She was rejected from the position because it had been listed as an occupation that women were restricted from doing. Medvedeva pursued a judicial order to compel the company to establish the safe working conditions required for her employment in response. Her appeal was rejected because, in the courts' reasoning, the restrictions on women were "aimed" at protecting the reproductive health of women. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) [official website], a UN mandate created to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [official website], reported that no scientific evidence had been provided to the Committee to support the claim that the inclusion of women into the position of helmperson-motorist would be harmful to women's reproductive health. The Committee concluded that Medvedeva had been put into a position where she cannot earn a living from being gainfully employed through the "profession for which she was educated." The CEDAW criticized and called on Russia to amend, reduce and revise the list of restricted or prohibited occupations and sectors established by the law and to give Ms. Medvedeva appropriate compensation, reparation and access to jobs for which she is qualified.

The CEDAW was urged [JURIST report] earlier this month to place more of a focus on women in disaster reduction and relief measures because women were disproportionately affected by disasters. In January UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced [JURIST report] that he is creating the first high-level panel to address women's economic empowerment initiatives. The panel's goal is to create a plan of action for nations and private sector businesses to implement in order to improve women's rights by achieving economic agency for women all over the globe. In September the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that no country has achieved full equality between men and women and urged [JURIST report] the 47 members of the Human Rights Council to make efforts to achieve such equality.

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