Gender stereotypes are widespread in Russian society. Although the Russian Federation adopted official policy of equality Russian authorities did not create the conditions that would result in true equality between men and women. (06-MAR-07)
Text: HRH/Moscow, by Yanina Savenko. Sources: demoscop.ru, owl.ru, wcons.org.ru
The Russian Constitution does not contain any definition of discrimination and doesn’t definitely prohibit discrimination on the ground of sex. Furthermore, the Constitution is not an effective instrument to prevent discrimination. The state, in turn, gives only minimal attention to issues of equality of sexes. According to the Moscow Helsinki Group, the majority of representatives of authorities does not consider the prohibition of discrimination as a basic principle of their work. Instead, most legislators, at both the federal and regional levels, view protection of women only as “social protection of motherhood and reproductive rights rather than the advancement of women and provision of equal opportunities”.
Violence against women
Violence, in the form of domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment is widespread and yet has elicited minimal state attention. Psychological and physical violence in marriage is not uncommon. 56% of women were threatened with beatings or were victims of violence al least once by their husbands. Almost a quarter of those women experienced sexual violence, and approximately 80% encountered psychological violence. Cases of rape are not usually reported in the Russian Federation. Women report that sexual harassment in the workplace is so common that it is almost considered as the “norm”. Moreover, the notion that violence against women is a “private” matter is widespread in law enforcement structures, in juridical system and among population as a whole.
Who helps the victims?
Meanwhile, there is no service for protection and rehabilitation of victims of family violence and rape. There is also no federal program on the prevention of trafficking of sexual slaves, although sex tourism, as well as the involvement of minors in prostitution is on the rise. Only some women’s non-governmental organizations in the Russian Federation provide assistance to victims of rape, slavery and family violence free of charge.
Participation in politics
The percentage of women in the legislative and executive bodies in the Russian Federation is very low. Meanwhile, there is the inverse dependence: the richer and the bigger a region is, the smaller number of women is present in regional parliaments. Only in every tenth region there is 20 percent of women representation in the ruling clique and in the highest ranks and in a quarter of all Russian Federation regions there are less than five percent of women-deputies in regional parliaments or there is no women at all.
Women face difficulties searching for a job. Employers don’t want to accept women for employment, they believe that family duties will hinder the work. By law women get maternity benefit, but usually this right is being violated. Often signing contract women are forced to guarantee “absence of possible pregnancy” during certain period of time and if they become pregnant they don’t receive maternity benefit or even are fired. Inspite of the fact, that there are mechanisms of protection of women rights in such cases by state labor inspections and by courts, women appeal to these bodies very seldom – either they don’t know their rights or they are afraid of loosing the job.
Real gender problem in the Russian Federation is a low women’s average wage, which constitutes 60% of men’s salary. Meanwhile, in regions this problem has the following dependence: the richer a region is – the bigger is difference between men’s and women’s salary, and, on the contrary, in regions with low income inequality is minimal, and sometimes women earn even more than men. Only in Moscow where there is a wide and developed spectrum of market services women with high qualification could find a well-paid job.
Low financing of health care
The government supports the stereotyped notion that woman’s primary role is in the area of childrearing. Although the official policy is allegedly aimed at family development, many people report that the state doesn’t create necessary conditions motivating women to have a baby. Accessible inexpensive or free of charge children institutions are being closed everywhere and are being commercialized. In villages decrease of state financing for health care is especially conspicuous. As a result, special medical institutions are being closed and there is a lack of such specialists as gynecologist and obstetrician. Besides, allowance to mothers, paid by the state, is absolutely insufficient in contemporary economic situation. Furthermore, payment of these benefits is often delayed or isn’t paid at all…