R.K.B. v. Turkey (Communication No. 28/2010)
Communication presented to the Committee, alleging dismissal of a woman due to gender-based discrimination at work; Gender-based stereotypes and the right to work; Access to Justice.
R.K.B.’s employer accused her of having an affair with a male colleague and dismissed her from the position but did not dismiss the male colleague, and threatened to “spread rumours about her relationships with other men” to pressure her to sign a document, attesting that she had been paid all her benefits upon termination. R.K.B. presented a claim to the Committee, alleging that her employer, a hairdressing salon, had unfairly terminated her contract of employment based on gender stereotypes. The Kocaeli 3rd Labour Court did not agree with the petitioner that dismissing her but not her male colleague was discriminatory. The court simply decided that the termination of her contract had not been justified. R.K.B. appealed to the Court of Cassation, which dismissed the appeal without reference to gender discrimination.
The Committee concluded that the Turkish courts based their decisions on gender stereotypes, tolerating allegations of extramarital relationships by male employees but not by female employees. The Committee decided that there had been a violation of articles 5(a), 11(1a) and 11(1d) of CEDAW. The Committee also responded to the State argument that laws on women’s rights had been adopted since the 1990s, hence meeting the due diligence standard, by explaining that the State has the obligation to actually improve women’s position in society and to eliminate wrongful stereotypes. The Committee decided that adequate compensation should be paid to the author; that the State should take measures to implement laws on gender equality in the work environment; and that the State should provide training to judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on women’s rights and gender-based stereotypes.
It is still to be seen how the CEDAW recommendations will be enforced.
First, the decision is of key importance in a country where almost 80% of women are unemployed (Richinick) and where women’s participation in the labor force has been declining. From 1955 to 2000, women’s participation has decreased from 72% to 26% (Tansel). Second, the decision stresses that it is not enough to adopt laws to protect rights. It is also necessary to have those laws implemented. Third, the decision emphasizes that the courts (and not the executive branch) were responsible for rights’ violations.