Russia and the patriarchal code


One girl’s protest: rally in Sokolniki Hyde Park, Moscow, against a bill reducing punishment for domestic violence PHOTO/Sergei Fadeichev · Tass · Getty

One woman murdered every 63 minutes

One in five Russian women report they have suffered domestic violence, but legal protection for them has been reduced in recent years and social provision is almost non-existent. And wider Russian society continues to deny there is any problem at all.

Sisters Krestina, Angelina and Maria Khachaturian are awaiting trial for the premeditated murder of their father in July 2018, when they were all teenagers. They allege their father raped and sexually and physically abused them over a long period. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, and have become symbolic of the domestic violence that as many as 16 million Russian women suffer, according to the most recent statistics (2012) from Rosstat, Russia’s Federal Service for State Statistics ; it surveyed 10,000 women aged 15 to 44 and found that 20% had been subjected to violence by a partner at least once.

The prospect of the sisters being jailed prompted feminist activist Alena Popova to launch a social media campaign against gender-based violence. Millions of Instagram, Vkontakte (the Russian equivalent of Facebook) and Twitter users posted pictures of themselves made up to look as though they had been beaten. According to the Anna Centre, Russia’s first domestic violence support organisation, set up in 1993, one Russian woman is killed every 63 minutes by a current or former partner.

Russia is rare in having no specific domestic violence legislation. This July the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sanctioned Russia for the first time in a domestic violence case. It awarded $22,150 in damages to Valeria Volodina, who claimed the authorities had failed to protect her from a former boyfriend. The ECHR concluded that Russia was ‘reluctant to acknowledge the gravity of the problem of domestic violence and its discriminatory effect on women’. Russia and Azerbaijan are the only members of the Council of Europe that have not signed and ratified the 2011 Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). Four cases against Russia similar to Volodina’s are due before the ECHR.

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