More Than 16 Days: Silence behind the Doors

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a global campaign dedicated to ending gender-based violence. In participation with The Center for Women’s Global Leadership, The Women Worldwide Initiative is hosting a Blog Series entitled, More Than 16 Days, from the start of the Campaign on the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence on November 25th, to Human Rights Day on December 10th with contributions from one of our Board Members, writers for the International Political Forum and young women from Women LEAD, based in post-conflict Nepal.

Day 1: This post, Silence Behind the Doors, is written by Katya from Russia. She, a delegate at the 2011 Girls(20) Summit, is a senior at Samara State Univeristy in Russia studying English language and Literature. Her interests lie in gender issues, social activism, media and youth leadership.

Domestic violence in the Russian Federation is a silent issue. According to the CEDAW, almost 14,000 Russian women are killed every year by partners or family members. Taking into consideration the skewed government statistics on domestic violence in the country, the actual numbers are much higher. Violence is not limited to a specific ethnic group or social class. It has no geographical boundaries; it silently walks in the houses and its scale is only growing.

What are the main causes of the issue? Alcoholism, poverty and poor living conditions add to the main cause of violence embedded in the unequal relations between women and men. Restrictions on the mobility of women, aggression, assaults and abuses are often followed by psychological and physical violence. It only makes the situation worse when the husband beats his wife while she is pregnant, ill or unemployed. The crisis in the relationship between men and women has its roots in a number of causes, one of which is the mentality of men which means that women should be subservient ‘servers’.

But why is there such a high scale of violence in Russia? First and foremost, there is little if any government support for crisis centers and telephone helplines across the country. There are about 25 working shelters across Russia that help women in difficult family situations, providing psychological help, support and first-aid.The Russian Federation has no specific legislation that addresses domestic violence. Officials usually see domestic violence as a private matter that should be sorted out from within the family. Indeed, Many victims are afraid to file the complaint about home violence because they don’t want to “make this family issue be public”. The officials lack experience in protecting victims of violence when the complaints are filed. Secondly, the crucial importance of patriarchal values comes into play. The belief that a woman’s place is in the home is still seated deeply in people’s minds and the attempts of many women to make a career or earn a living often fall pitifully flat.

The measures that should be taken by governmental officials, NGOs, civil activists are complex and consistent to ensure that domestic violence is recognized as illegal and  a serious offense. With the latest law on NGOs in Russia (naming the non-governmental organizations getting financial help from abroad “foreign agents”), the level of their involvement in solving issues of gender violence and domestic violence is going to decrease dramatically. There is still a low level of public awareness of violence at the domestic level in the country as the figures are not available and the data on domestic violence is not systematic. There is a lot to be undertaken by the government officials to tackle the issue, but the changes in the minds of the people and the attitudes toward the violence are more important. Where there is violence, there should be no tolerance, but rather strict punishment.

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