Member blog: International Women’s Day: “Say NO to domestic violence” – the inside on the Russian domestic violence decriminalization amendments

This blog post was written by Youth Coalition member Evdokia RomanovaEvdokia is an active member of Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights for over four years, also serving as an advisor for FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund. Evdokia is a sociologist and a social worker, who dedicated her research for the topics of stigma, identity, and discrimination, trying to develop the practical interventions for working with the community through participatory and artivism methodologies. She is focusing her activism efforts on the topics of women’s rights, sexual orientation and gender identity rights, and education as a way for overcoming social stigma.

Today, on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, I call upon the history of this celebration, so wrongfully forgotten in the country where I am coming from. The patriarchal norms and realities have turned this memorable date into the celebration of femininity and motherhood, with all the struggles faced by women in an almost  decade-long fight for their rights unjustly forgotten.

I see this date as an opportunity to speak of one of the most painful and extremely relevant topics in Russian society: the legislation of 7th of February 2017 that decriminalized domestic violence. Though this issue does not only affect women, the majority of domestic violence cases are faced by women (around 70% of Russian women have been subjected to some form of violence from their intimate partner according to Human Rights Watch).

What would influence the decision of the politicians to create such an unthoughtful and cruel act? I was asked this question as an activist and as a woman by many of my friends and colleagues from all over the world. I still struggle to provide the answer to this question, because for me this is an unspeakable form of ignorance and brutality. However, we may find a clue to the answer in this quote, from The Moscow Times, of the politician Elena Mizulina, who was so actively fighting for this legislation to pass: “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power, the laws should support that family tradition.” Apparently, contemporary Russian politicians are ready to sacrifice the lives of the victims of domestic violence (over 10,000 women die per year due to domestic violence in Russia, according to The Guardian) to maintain the “traditional family structure.” So these women die for – patriarchal family structure.

The legislation towards decriminalization of domestic violence has taken the Russian society backwards in relation to women’s rights and overall human rights. But we shall not let the fire of our activist spirit be put out. As human rights defenders, as people coming from historically oppressed and marginalized groups, we shall keep on highlighting the importance of this issue and fight for those in vulnerable conditions.

Today, on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, I call on activists worldwide to support the Russian society by signing the ongoing petition calling for the adoption of a domestic violence law that protects the victim, instead of protecting the perpetrator: https://www.change.org/p/state-duma-adopt-the-domestic-violence-law-in-russia

I also call on the government of my country to stop praising patriarchy and to think about protecting your nation, as it is in your power to help us fight violence and oppression.

Image “Deliberation” by Mario Sánchez Nevado