Russia is an equal society in terms of legislation. Well-educated women in the cities live in relative equality. In reality, however, Russian society as a whole is characterised by traditional gender roles and perceptions, such as that women are responsible for the children and the family.
Population: 141 million (2010)
Religions: Christianity approx. 80 %, mainly Russian Orthodox; other religions include Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism
Life expectancy: Men 59 years, women 73 years (2011)
Literacy rate: Almost l00 %
Income inequality: Gini coefficient 0.422 (2009) *
Ranking on the Transparency International list of Corruption Perceptions in 183 countries: 143 (2011) **
Ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index of 146 countries, taking gender equality into account: 59 (2011) ***
Maternal deaths: 34 deaths per l00,000 births (2008)
Number of children/woman: 1.42
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion
Law against rape within marriage: No
Violence against women in close relationships: Violence in the home is the cause of two thirds of all murders in Russia. It is estimated that 34,000 women are subjected to violence in the home each year. 60-70 per cent of these victims do not report the abuse, mainly because previous attempts to report it have failed.
* Gini coefficient:
An economic metric of inequality in a population, for example in income distribution. The Gini coefficient has a value of between 0 and 1, where 0 implies that the assets of all individuals are exactly the same (total equality) while 1 represents total inequality. The lower the Gini coefficient for income inequality, the greater the equality of distribution of salaries, profits, welfare benefits and other forms of compensation.
In 2011, Transparency International ranked 183 countries according to how widespread corruption was in the country. Position 1 on the list showed the country where corruption was least widespread, position 183 the greatest. Corruption within, for example, the police and justice systems has a marked influence on women’s lives.
Every year, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, measures human development in the world’s countries taking into account health, education and income, in the Human Development Index, HDI. In 2010 a new index was introduced: GII, Gender Inequality Index, which also takes gender equality into account. The countries are ranked from position 1 downwards.
Swedish Institute of International Affairs
CIA World Factbook
Center for Reproductive Rights
UNDP HDI 2011
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ reports on human rights
Is there legislation in place which explicitly states that acts of violence committed against women by someone close to them which take place in private are against the law, and which imposes appropriate punishment on the perpetrator?
Assault and fatal violence are punishable with fines or imprisonment up to 15 years (regardless of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator). If the victim of repeated violence in the family is a minor, a paragraph in the penal code which relates to torture and systematic violence may be applied in special cases.
There is no section of the law which describes either violence within the family, or rape within marriage. The most common crimes of violence in close relationships are not a matter for public prosecution.
There are both national and regional laws, and sometimes they clash.
Is there a functioning, non-corrupt police force and judiciary which can pass sentence and enforce punishment within a reasonable period of time?
Public confidence in the police is low and corruption is common. The police do not take violence in the home seriously and countless women who have been subjected to violence describe police officers who advise them not to report the crime, and evidence that “disappears”.
Violence in the home is, in most cases, considered to be a private matter and it is up to the woman herself to go to court and to obtain evidence such as medical certificates and witnesses.
It is difficult for a woman who has been subjected to violence to prove her case in court. The judge may view jealousy or the fact that the perpetrator was very drunk as mitigating circumstances. In the case of rape, the behaviour of the victim may be taken into account.
Are there accessible and reliable statistics for the incidence of violence against women?
There are some statistics relating to the trends in crime, and the authorities have confirmed Amnesty’s report that 14,000 Russian women are murdered, or are the victims of attempted murder, by their husband or another member of the family every year.
The statistics are patchy, not continual, and do not cover all of Russia’s 89 regions. The biggest contribution has been made by women’s rights organisations and researchers, financed by international organisations. 70 per cent of married Russian women have experienced some form of violence – physical, psychological, sexual or economic – within their marriage, according to one such national study undertaken by the Council for Women at Moscow University in 1995. In the same study, 36 per cent said they were living with physical and /or psychological violence.
Is it possible for women to support themselves and their children, for example after divorce?
Yes. It is generally acceptable for women to be in paid employment but the differences in salary are considerable.
It is difficult for a woman to leave a violent husband due to the serious shortage of affordable housing. She cannot afford to live alone. It is difficult to obtain social welfare, and that does not cover the most essential basics.
Are there shelters for women who want to leave a violent relationship?
There are women’s shelters which can offer temporary protection in some cities.
There are very few women’s shelters. Only 23 shelters offer professional help for abused women, according to an inventory from 2009 (by the national centre, ANNA). That means a total of about 200 beds in a country with 142 million inhabitants.
The aim of many women’s shelters is to “reunite the family”, in keeping with the tradition that the woman is responsible for holding the family together. Most women do, in fact, go back to their husbands.
Has the government explicitly expressed the will to fight the violence by means of public debate and various forms of preventive work, for example in the schools, the legal system and the healthcare system?
Under the law on social welfare, abused women and children must be given support (although this help is very limited; see the section on women’s shelters).
There have been some attempts on a small scale to educate chiefs of police and support co-operation between local police authorities and women’s shelters in order to institute legal proceedings against the perpetrator.
The question is not a political priority.
No details on the fatal violence in close relationships is published in the media, as the subject is considered uninteresting and “private”.
Are there any programmes to prevent the abuser from relapsing into violence?
A small project is underway in St Petersburg where psychologists are working with men who want to end their violent behaviour. We have been unable to find more good examples.
Does society take the view that women are subordinate to men?
The constitution states that men and women are equal.
There are indications that young people, at least in the big cities, are becoming interested in leading more equal lives; for example, there are some men who want to take paternity leave.
In Russia, the man is considered the undisputed head of the family, which gives him the right to control. This situation goes back to the 18th century when the so-called Domostroi, a manual setting out how the man should raise his family and servants, and in which violence was both legal and a natural element, was written. The patterns of behaviour and attitudes are maintained by many women.
Which direction is the fight to end the violence against women going in?
The work to put an end to violence against women has not just come to a stand-still, it is going backwards. When the Soviet Union was dissolved there was a great deal of international interest in working with the widespread problem of violence against women, but large amounts of foreign aid have since been withdrawn. Women’s shelters are being closed. The question does not have political priority. A number of drafts for a law on violence in the home have been rejected by the Duma.
There are no signs that the violence is decreasing. The number of reported cases of violence in the home increased by 47 per cent between 2007-2008. According to the official statistics, one woman is killed every hour. Violence occurs in one family in four.
There are several indications that the situation for Russian women will deteriorate still further, with, for example, limitations in the right to abortion. The economic situation makes life difficult for a normal Russian family, and the housing shortage continues to be severe.