Staunton, Mar. 9 – Over the last decade, almost as many Russian women have died from family violence as Soviet soldiers died in the war in Afghanistan, a horrifying figure that the Russian government has concealed by its 2016 decision to decriminalize family violence, Mari Davtyan says.
The Russian government claims that the number of women who have died from such attacks has fallen by 50 percent over the last five years, the head of the Center for the Defense of Those Suffering from Violence in the Home says; but that is simply not true (daptar.ru/2022/03/09/samoe-opasnoe-mesto-dlya-zhenschin-v-rossii-eto-dom/).
Her organization conducted its own investigation by identifying the female victims of those tried for murder and then determining whether they were killed by their partners. Between 2011 and 2019, 66 percent of the women murdered were victims of family violence and 81 percent of these by actions of their partners, 12,209 women in all.
According to the World Bank, “Russian women are one of the least defended in the world. The country doesn’t have laws on family violence or harassment in the workplace. It ranks as a result among countries like Liberia, Gabon, Iran, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.
There have been a handful of cases where women who have been assaulted by their partners have won in Russian courts but most do not, Davtyan says. Last December, the European Court for Human Rights found for four Russian women who had resisted violence by their partners and ordered Moscow to take steps to prevent this from happening.
Given Putin’s change in the constitution which now elevates Russian law over international law, it is unclear whether this will happen. But publicity about the case has already led more Russian women to try to use the legal system to protect themselves and their children against violence.
Up to now, most Russian women who are victims of such violence do not turn to the police because they do not trust them and lack access to NGOs outside of major cities who can provide them with even minimal help. Those NGOs in turn are often ignored by the authorities but they do provide some assistance and thus some hope, the activist says.
According to Davtyan, one of the most concerns involve women in families with handicapped children. Often they feel they cannot leave their husbands and must put up with violence. Protecting them and their children must be a primary goal, but the existing legal and social system in Russia provides them with little support.