The list was originally introduced to protect women’s safety and reproductive health, which was considered vital for a Communist society.
But, Medvedeva argues, the limitations apply to all women, even if they can’t give birth or are sterilized.
“It can’t be considered a matter of protecting our reproductive health,” she says. “In my job, there is a risk of becoming deaf, but how that is related to my fertility is not clear at all.”
After being rejected by the shipping company, Medvedeva immediately contested the decision with little success.
She sent letters to numerous ministries but received no response. The St. Petersburg-based Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial (ADC), an NGO that defends the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups, then took up her case.
“In 2012, we filed a lawsuit to the district court to oblige the defendant to employ me and to recognize their initial refusal as a case of discrimination,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times.
The case was first rejected by a district court in Samara and then by a regional court. One year later, her lawyers filed a complaint to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Russia is a state party.
In March 2016, the UN recognized the company’s refusal to employ her as gender discrimination and the list as a violation of women’s rights.
But international recognition didn’t mean the legislation was changed or the list was scrapped. In fact, Medvedeva’s case was once again rejected by the district court in Samara.
That changed last week, when on Sept. 15, after a five-year-long legal battle, the same court recognized her rejection of employment as discriminatory.
“It means a lot to me,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. “There are women, who like me, work in the merchant navy and are denied employment because of this list. But now everything will change. “
Medvedeva’s case, her lawyers agree, sets a legal precedent for other women to challenge similar job rejections in court.
“It is symbolically important for fighting gender discrimination in Russia with legal means,” says Sergei Golubok, one of Medvedeva’s lawyers.
But the ban is still in place and the court did not grant the second part of her case obliging the shipping company to hire her. It is unclear what practical impact Medvedeva’s victory will have.
“All we have is moral satisfaction,” another lawyer, Dmitry Bartеnev, concludes.