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Russian Court Rules Transgender Woman’s Firing Unlawful

Fully Repeal Professions Ban on Women

The Russian flag flies on a courthouse building in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 15 2020. © 2020 Alexander Koriakov/Kommersant/Sipa via AP Images

A transgender woman in St. Petersburg, Russia has won a final court battle with a former employer who fired her in 2017 after she changed her legal gender.

The woman, known as “Anna,” had worked for a decade as a quality control checker at a company that manufactured plates used in printing presses for candy wrappers.

Her legal fight began in 2015 when she went to court after authorities refused a request to change her first name on her ID card. The ensuing process included an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. In 2017, Anna was legally recognized as a woman and obtained new ID documents. Then she was fired.

The grounds? That the profession was one that the Russian government deemed banned for women.

Rooted in 1970s Soviet propaganda that said women needed to be “protected” from dangerous jobs, a regulation passed by the Putin government in 2000 barred women from working in 456 professions. In July 2019, following domestic lawsuits and criticism from United Nations women’s rights experts, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection shortened the list to 100 “restricted” professions. The reduced list will come into effect in January 2021.

Anna filed a lawsuit for discrimination but lost. With the help of Vyhod (“Coming Out”), a Russian LGBT rights group, she appealed to a city court but lost again. In December 2018, the city court’s presidium declared the earlier rulings void and sent Anna’s case for a retrial. In April 2019, Anna won, and the court ordered 10,000 rubles in compensation for moral damages (US$144) and 1.85 million rubles (US$26,500) in compensation for forced absenteeism.

Max Olenichev, legal adviser at Vyhod, said of the decision: “Every woman has the right to choose a profession, and the absolute prohibition on such a choice, established in Russia by a list of professions prohibited for women, is a manifestation of discrimination.” While the list of restricted professions remains in place, the case also demonstrated that “Transgender women who have suffered from its use can be protected in national courts,” he said.

Instead of limiting women’s access to employment, the Russian government should focus on ensuring workplaces are safe and free of abuse and discrimination for everyone.

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