Russia: Governmental Support of Women’s Equality Weakened in Past Decade

Over 200 women’s organizations have sent a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin calling for him to create and fund a national committee on gender equality, which is increasingly necessary as women’s status continues to decline in the country. Currently, women’s organizations in Russia wield no influence in the government’s decision-making process, even on topics that affect women primarily. The Moscow Times reports that since 1993—when former President Boris Yeltsin was in power and many institutions were created to promote women’s social status, civil service, and reproductive health—little has been done to encourage gender equality.

Additionally, the Russian government eliminated in 2004 the only commission on women’s rights, as well as the position of deputy prime minister for women’s affairs. The Moscow Times reports that Russia has also failed to meet the commitments it made when the country adopted the Beijing Platform for Action to improve women’s lives in 1995. The Russian delegation to the United Nations conference to review progress for women’s rights 10 years following the Fourth World Conference on Women was the smallest in years.

The government has also done little to alter social stigmas that prevent women from claiming more control over their lives. For example, fear of public scorn is one of the reasons many Russian women do not report domestic abuse, choosing instead to stay quiet and often blaming themselves, according to Women’s eNews. One out of every four families in Russia experiences domestic violence, with roughly 14,000 women dying a year at the hands of their husbands or partners, Women’s eNews reports. Comparatively, 1,200 American women—less than one-tenth of the number of Russian women—die from domestic violence each year in the United States, a nation with twice the population. Financial dependence and the belief that law enforcement will not help are some of other most common reasons Russian women do not report abuse. In 1997, Human Rights Watch confirmed the shared fear of Russian women, charging Russian law enforcement with failing to adequately investigate incidents of domestic violence and prosecuting abusers.

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Moscow Times 3/9/05; St. Petersburg Times 3/8/05; WomenÕs eNews 3/10/05

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