Staunton, June 14 – Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov told the United Nations last month that the small number of cases about discrimination in Russian courts show that the situation there is improving, a claim lawyers and activists dismiss because few victims turn to the courts because the courts seldom give them any relief.
Konovalev provided no statistics to support his position – the Russian government does not publish any – but activists have tried to collect them and what they show is appalling: Among LGBT people alone, 17.3 percent have suffered discrimination in hiring or retention (lgbtnet.org/sites/default/files/monitoring_diskriminacii_16-17.pdf).
But few of them have gone to court not only because of the difficulties and expense of doing so but also and more importantly because they can see that Russian courts either dismiss their suits, support employers or provide little relief – even though Russian law specifies that there must not be any discrimination in this or other areas.
According to a new survey of the situation by Meduza’s Anna Valtseva, Russian lawyers and human rights activists say it is “practically impossible to show discrimination on the basis of sex, age, sexual orientation or nationality” and so most victims of such discrimination simply don’t bother to seek redress (/meduza.io/feature/2018/06/11/tolko-slavyanam).
Age discrimination is especially widespread, according to a Higher School of Economics study, with employers indicating the age groups they are most interested in in 70 percent of all cases, something that is banned by a 2013 law (trudprava.ru/expert/research/discriminsurv/1547).
Also widespread are illegal advertisements that “only Slavs” need apply for apartment rentals. These are so frequently encountered, Aleksandr Verkhovsky of SOVA says, that “many prefer simply not to react to such ads, supposing that there is no way that they can change the situation.”
Some employers and landlords are more subtle about their discrimination. They don’t advertise it; they simply apply it in the course of interviews. And because there is no official documents in such cases, Russian courts typically refuse to take complaints seriously – even when those seeking relief bring in tape recordings of the interviews.
Occasionally, a victim of discrimination does “win” in court, Valtseva reports; but his or her victory his hollow: the courts seldom order significant compensation for their losses or require the employer or landlord to change policies or even hire or let an apartment to the individual who has won the case.