Domestic violence in Russia worst in the poorest and richest families
Academics and public figures meeting in Moscow have been discussing ways of overcoming gender inequality and protecting women against violence.
According to research conducted by Russian sociologists, up to 45% of young families are subjected to different kinds of violence, be it physical, mental or economic. For the most part, such acts are reported by women. At the same time, the highest levels of violence take place among the very rich and poor. Those on average earnings are less susceptible to aggression on the part of their loved ones. In the researchers’ view, there is a clear link between social inequality and domestic violence.
Problems of domestic violence were discussed at an international conference on “Womanhood in a time of change: Gender inequality as a cultural norm and social practice” organised by the Heinrich Böll and Gorbachev Foundations and the Journal of Social Policy Studies.
Attitudes to violence in society are changing
“85% of young people regard domestic violence as a violation of human rights and something that must be stopped. The prevalence of violence on the one hand and the ability to resist and speak openly about it on the other are a reflection of a shift in public attitudes on the issue”, said Olga Zdravomyslova, Chair of the Gorbachev Foundation.
According to Zdravomyslova, fifteen years ago people kept quiet about such violence, but now the issue is being openly discussed, particularly by the young. However, positive changes in this area have been painfully slow. One of the reasons for this is that public attention on this issue is sometimes regarded as an intrusion into people’s privacy.
Sexual violence: One of a range of social problems
According to Claudia Mitchell, a researcher at McGill University in Canada, sexual violence is a symptom of more general problems and cannot be resolved in isolation. “Sexual violence is often linked with other social problems in people’s lives. We have to gradually change the attitudes of people who’ve been subjected to this kind of violence both to themselves and to those around them. Consequently, the focus of our study has been on a younger generation of women who are completely different from those of 20-30 years ago”, she said.
According to the researchers, girls and young women take a great interest in what’s going on around them and want to play an active role in society. They’re increasingly bringing to the public’s attention issues that directly affect them, often at great personal risk. They’re now talking openly about their feelings.
The power of flash-bombing
A vivid example that demonstrates the reality of the problem is the flash-bomb #I’m not afraid to speak out campaign. Elena Yarskaya-Smirinova, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Social Policy Studies, reminded those present at the meeting that by using this hashtag, thousands of women are able to talk openly about their bad experiences with men.
“Different activities and flash-bombing are extremely important in the fight to stop domestic violence and are a force for openness and honesty. They help in bringing women together, thereby raising the issue to a new level”, said Elena
The role of the media
“This issue has become the topic of discussion in mass culture. It’s better to educate girls using high quality mass media outlets rather than through glossy magazines. Soviet magazines used to write that a woman was an industrious worker, a public figure and also a mother”, said Nadezhda Azhgikhina, a member of the European Federation of Journalists.
“The image of women post-Perestroika has changed dramatically. For example, during the 1990s, some national and foreign media outlets wrote that Russian women only wanted to be currency prostitutes. These days, very little is said about the lives of the modern Russian woman and the challenges she faces. As a result, the younger generation mainly gets its information through public fora and social networks” Nadezhda added.
According to Azhgikhina, the modern day individual is frequently referred to as a media person as he or she relies on information from the media. That’s why we need to more actively promote the unacceptability of domestic violence and gender inequality through online publications, social networks, the press and television.