Year: 2012 (Date of Decision: 24 February, 2012)
Forum, Country: UN CEDAW; Turkey
Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Right to decent work; Women
Summary Background: In this case, the issue at stake was whether the complainant (or “author” of the communication) had been unjustifiably dismissed from her workplace on the basis of gender stereotypes. While she had been fired due to a rumour that she had had an extra-marital affair with a male colleague, her male co-worker’s contract was not terminated. Before leaving, under threat of the spread of rumours of her relationship with other men, she was pressured, but refused, to sign a document that attested that she had benefited from all her rights under contract. Local courts had found in her favour but did not reference gender discrimination.
Holding: The Committee found that the local Turkish courts [State institutions] failed to give due consideration to the clear, prima facie indication of infringement of equal treatment in the field of employment [para. 8.6]. By scrutinizing in the course of the case, the moral integrity of only the author (a female employee) but not that of male employees, the courts revealed their lack of gender sensitivity in breach of Committee observations in General Recommendation No. 28 (2010) [paras. 8.6-8.7]. The Committee emphasized that full implementation of the Convention imposes an obligation on States parties not only to take steps to eliminate direct and indirect discrimination and improve the de facto position of women, but also to modify and transform gender stereotypes and eliminate wrongful gender stereotyping, a root cause and consequence of discrimination against women. The Committee was of the view that gender stereotypes are perpetuated through a variety of means and institutions including laws and legal systems and that they may be perpetuated by State actors in all branches and levels of government and by private actors. In this case, the courts had helped perpetuate gender stereotyping [para. 8.8].
The Committee concluded that the author’s rights against gender stereotyping and gender discrimination as guaranteed under ICEDAW had been violated. Accordingly the Committee held that appropriate reparation should be provided to the author; that the State should take measures to implement laws on gender equality in the workplace; and that the State should provide training to judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on the Convention and women’s rights so as to ensure that stereotypical prejudices and values do not affect decision-making [para. 8.10].
Additional Comments: The decision highlights that merely adopting Comments: legislation protecting rights is never sufficient. Proper enforcement is key to the effective realization of rights.
Link to Full Case: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/jurisprudence.htm, direct link: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/docs/CEDAW/CEDAW-C-51-D-28-2010_en.doc