UN urges Russia to tackle acute issues of discrimination against women


(Paris) FIDH and ADC "Memorial" welcome the recommendations issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) urging the Russian authorities to address the issues of discrimination against migrant women and against women belonging to sexual, ethnic and cultural minorities.

These recommendations echo the shadow-report of ADC "Memorial" supported by FIDH and submitted to the CEDAW ahead of its review of Russia’s women’s rights record.

The UN expert body calls on the Russian government to put an end to the separation of migrant women from their children in temporary detention facilities for foreigners. It also urges the authorities to cease the practice of placing foreign pregnant women in detention centers for violating residence regulations. Both reflect ADC Memorial’s long-term struggle to end these discriminatory practices.

During the review of Russia, the CEDAW Committee also expressed its concern over a wide range of issues regarding women’s rights. The Committee confirmed that widespread gender-based stereotypes on women’s role and responsibilities are the embedded causes of the attempts to prohibit abortions, to discriminate against sexual minorities, and to stay idle on family violence. A recommendation to criminalise domestic violence had already been handed down to Russia, but without any positive changes from the Russian government the CEDAW was compelled to repeat it. Russian law prevents women from practicing many professional activities considered suitable only for men.

« Our organisations welcome Russia’s commitment, during the CEDAW session, to repeal this discriminatory provision. It is highly important that the authorities put this commitment into practice, in compliance with their international obligations », declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

Harmful practices such as polygamy, bride kidnapping, violence against women and lack of education on family planning in North Caucasus were underlined by the UN experts and reflected in the recommendations to the Russian Government.

« In spite of the reluctance of the authorities to bring about change, the CEDAW’s critical assessment is welcomed. A breakthrough is now needed to adopt the bill on non-discrimination and aimed at guaranteeing equal rights, freedoms and opportunities for all », said Stephania Kulaeva, ADC Memorial Director.

However, several issues were not explicitly included in the Committee’s conclusive observations. In particular, we would like to point out that women from the Roma community face harsh discrimination, both as women and as members of an ethnic minority. The lack of education, unemployment, and harmful traditions severely affect their rights.

The issues of harassment of independent NGOs and the negative impact of the "foreign agents law" on women’s civic activism were also raised. Nevertheless, we regret that the CEDAW’s conclusive observations do not explicitly condemn the arrests and harassment of women activists.

The Russian Government, on the occasion of its answers to the list of CEDAW’s questions, committed to address these issues in providing a restricted definition of the term «political work» within the «foreign agents» law. Most important this clarification of the law would enable women-rights NGOs to operate, as currently an increasing number of NGOs are enlisted as «foreign agents» (the latest NGO being Kaliningrad based «The world of woman» on December 12th 2015).

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