#8 - JRL 7189
May 20, 2003
NGOs: 36,000 Women Beaten Daily
By Megan Merrill
Every day, 36,000 women in Russia are beaten by their partners, nongovernmental organizations said Monday, calling for law enforcement officers to treat domestic violence as a crime.
"The number of women dying every year at the hands of their husbands and partners in the Russian Federation is roughly equal to the number of all soldiers who died in the Soviet Union's 10-year war in Afghanistan," Natalya Abubikirova, executive director of Stop Violence, an association of crisis centers for women, said in a statement. "We must not tolerate the indifference with which society and the state are treating this problem."
Stop Violence together with Amnesty International held a news conference Monday to call on the government to raise public awareness of domestic violence, train police to respond properly to women's complaints and collect better statistics. Russian has no law making domestic violence a crime.
The news conference followed a string of special reports this month condemning the pervasive attitude that domestic violence is a private matter, and noting that Russia's prevention efforts lag far behind those in the West.
Izvestia reported that three-quarters of Russian women endure some form of domestic violence, noting there are only about 60 centers in all of Russia to help victims, while Britain has nearly 500.
A poll conducted by Moscow State University and the Academy of Sciences' Sociology Institute found that nearly one in every five women is regularly and severely beaten, Gazeta.ru reported, a figure also quoted by Stop Violence. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the poll of 2,134 men and women from all regions of Russia was released earlier this month. The poll found that 43 percent of all respondents considered a husband's beating of his wife to be a private matter, with one-third advising the victim to think about why she deserved the beating. More than 70 percent said a woman's consent for sex is not necessary in a marriage.
The NGOs found that many women also suffer economic abuse. Examples range from making a wife account for every kopek to forbidding her to work though her husband is unemployed.
The government has acknowledged that domestic violence is a serious problem: In a 2002 report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Russia estimated that 14,000 women die every year as a result of domestic violence. The Soviet Union lost 15,000 troops in its 1979-89 war in Afghanistan.
"The situation is exacerbated by the lack of statistics and indeed by the attitude of the agencies of law and order to this problem, for they view such violence not as a crime but as a 'private matter between spouses,'" the 1999 report to the same UN committee said.
The Labor Ministry promised last week to establish governmental programs to help victims and to work toward the adoption of laws addressing violence in the family.
A law criminalizing domestic violence is absolutely necessary, said Lara Griffith of Amnesty International, but the process is so complicated that NGOs are focusing on training law enforcement officials to treat family violence as a crime covered by criminal assault laws.