Gender stereotypes in Russian constitutional law: the “special treatment” trap?

Available in Russian

Available for free

Author: Olga Podoplelova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2018-3-73-91

Keywords: equality; gender discrimination; gender stereotypes; prohibition of discrimination; women’s rights


The prohibition of gender discrimination a fundamental principle of constitutional and international law. At the same time, the implementation of this principle in Russia currently faces numerous problems, some of which originate from the text of the Russian Constitution and are being supported in the caselaw of Russian Constitutional Court. This article aims to examine the impact of gender stereotypes on the implementation of the principles of equality and prohibition of gender discrimination in Russian constitutional law. The author summarizes certain features of the constitutional regulation of these principles in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. The article presents the overview of the caselaw of the Russian Constitutional Court on various issues of gender discrimination. The author reviews several key features of this caselaw. In particular, the analysis reveals a serious imbalance in the number of cases brought by women and men to the Constitutional Court, as well as significant impact of the concept of “special treatment” on the outcome of such cases dictated by nothing else as gender stereotypes. As a result, the author comes to the conclusion that not only Russian legislation, but also the approaches of the Constitutional Court on discrimination cases, remain clamped by gender stereotypes, in particular those concerning the idea that procreation is the only viable mission in a woman’s life and the mother’s primary responsibilities for child care. The study of the caselaw of the Constitutional Court in fact reveals a lack of developed constitutional instruments for protection against discrimination. The deeply rooted approaches and arguments of the Court lead to the conservation of existing restrictions on the rights of women themselves, but also affect the possibilities for exercising constitutional rights by men. In these circumstances, the caselaw of the Constitutional Court actually legitimizes patriarchal attitudes and impedes progress towards gender equality.

About the author: Olga Podoplelova – Senior lawyer, Institute for Law and Public Policy, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Podoplelova O. (2018) Gendernye stereotipy v konstitutsionnom prave Rossii: lovushka “osobogo otnosheniya”? [Gender stereotypes in Russian constitutional law: the “special treatment” trap?]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.27, no.3, pp.73–91. (In Russian).


Baines B., Rubio-Marin R. (eds.) (2005) The Gender of Constitutional Jurisprudence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Binefeld М., Chetvernina T.Ya., Lakunina L.D. (2007) Rossiyskie reformy i polozhenie zhenshchin na rynke truda i v obshchestve [Russian Reforms and the Status of Women in the Labour Market and in the Society]. Zhurnal issledovaniy sotsial'noy politiki, vol.5, no.3, pp.387–404. (In Russian).

Case М.А. (2000) Very Stereotype the Law Condemns: Constitutional Sex Discrimination Law as a Quest for Perfect Proxies. Cornell Law Review, vol.85, no.5, pp.1447–1491.

Filatova M.A. (2014) Sovremennye voprosy pozitivnoy diskriminatsii v kontekste praktiki konstitutsionnykh sudov [Contemporary Issues of Positive Discrimination in the Jurisprudence of Constitutional Courts]. Zhurnal konstitutsionnogo pravosudiya, no.4, pp.19–28. (In Russian).

Franklin C. (2010) The Anti-Stereotyping Principle in Constitutional Sex Discrimination Law. New York University Law Review, vol.85, no.1, pp.83–173.

Fredman S. (2012) Discrimination Law, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fredman S. (2017) Vozvrashchayas' k voprosu o soderzhatel'nom ravenstve [Substantive equality revisited]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.26, no.1, pp.37–63. (In Russian).

Havelková B. (2016) Resistance to Anti-Discrimination Law in Central and Eastern Europe – A Post-Communist Legacy? German Law Journal, vol.17, no.4, pp.627–656.

Irving H. (2008) Gender and the Constitution: Equity and Agency in Comparative Constitutional Design, Cambridge University Press.

Irving H. (2017) Constitutions and Gender, Cheltenham; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Isayeva N.V. (2014) Pravovaya identichnost' (teoretiko-pravovoe issledovanie): Dis. … d-ra yurid. nauk [Legal identity (theoretical legal study: Dr. in law sci. diss.], Moscow. (In Russian).

Law S.A. (1984) Rethinking Sex and the Constitution. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol.132, no.5, pp.955–1040.

Levinson R.B. (2011) Gender-Based Affirmative Action and Reverse Gender Bias: Beyond Gratz, Parents Involved, and Ricci. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, vol.34, no.1, pp.1–36.

Nordenmark M. (2015) Gender Regime, Attitudes Toward Childcare and Actual Involvement in Childcare Among Fathers. In: Eydal G.B., Rostgaard T. (eds.) Fatherhood in the Nordic Welfare States: Comparing Care Policies and Practice, Bristol: Policy Press, pp.163–184.

Pascall G., Manning N. (2000) Gender and social policy: comparing welfare states in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Journal of European Social Policy, vol.10, no.3, pp.240–266.

Polenina S.V. (2016) Pravovaya politika Rossiyskoy Federatsii v sfere gendernykh otnosheniy [Gender policy of the Russian Feredration]. Trudy Instituta gosudarstva a prava RAN, no.1, pp.62–80.

Ryabova T.B. (2001) Gendernye stereotipy i gendernaya stereotipizatsiya: metodologicheskie podkhody [Gender stereotypes and gender stereotypification: methodological approaches]. Zhenshchina v rossiyskom obschestve, no.3–4, pp.3–12. (In Russian).

Williams S.H. (2009) Constituting Equality: Gender Equality and Comparative Constitutional Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zor'kin V.D., Lazarev L.V. (eds.) (2009) Kommentariy k Konstitutsii Rossiyskoy Federatsii [Commentary to the Constitution of the Russian Federation], Moscow: Eksmo. (In Russian).