Domestic violence is not a private matter

At a round table
discussion on the theme “16 days against violence towards women in Russia” Olga
Salova, human rights expert in the office of the senior counsellor of Russia on
human rights in the UN system, spoke about domestic violence.  She announced the start of the campaign “16
days against gender-based violence” which began on the International Day of the
Struggle against Violence towards Women and runs until International Human
Rights Day. The campaign will go on until 2015. There are five basic aims,
including the adoption of national legislation on violence against women, a
national action plan, setting up of an effective system of data collection,
raising public awareness, and the reduction of sexual violence during armed
conflicts. Salova especially stressed the need for a law against gender-based
violence in Russia, and amendments to the Criminal Code, as well as more
shelters for women who are victims of violence.


Melnikova, from the Ministry of Health and Social Development, said that Moscow
has only one shelter with 35 beds, while European standards imply a shelter for
every 10,000 people.  Statistics from
2010 indicate that the whole Russian Federation has just 19 crisis centres for
women and three for men. Providing assistance to victims of domestic violence
is the responsibility of incident departments, of which there are only 120 in
the country. There are also 23 social welfare homes for women with children,
but this is not enough, in her view. She highlighted yet another problem: the
police often fail to act on women’s claims to have suffered domestic violence,
on the grounds that this is a “family matter”. 
The director of the National Anti-violence Centre “Anna” and Chair of
the National Commission on Violence towards Women, Marina Pisklakova-Parker, Russia
does not even have accurate data on domestic murders. She said the police are
not interested unless it is a matter of grievous bodily harm or murder. Mari
Davtyan of the Consortium of Women’s NGOs said it was not just  a matter of the attitude of individual police
officers – their role in intervening in such situations is not adequately
defined in the law. The consortium had conducted a survey of police, and found
that 95% consider that the legislation on domestic violence is ineffective.
Many had said that the only means available to the police is to talk to those
involved. So Davtyan was convinced that the law needs amending, and should
provide for a wider range of sentences and a redefinition of domestic violence
as a crime of public insult. The main responsibility for bringing charges
should fall to the procuracy and not to the woman who has been a victim of
violence. The expert also suggested that firearms licences should be denied to
those guilty of domestic violence, and that a system of witness protection
should be established for victims and witnesses, financed by the state budget.
She and other experts stressed the need for a new law on domestic violence as a
means to provide for effective intervention in such cases.


Footnote: The
Avon project “Let’s say no” to domestic violence opened a free telephone
hotline for women all over Russia in 2011 –
8-800-700-06-00. Staff at the hotline say that in the first 8 months
the most common form of violence reported was physical (60% of calls). Next
were cases of psychological pressure (37%). A large number of calls were from married
women aged 30-40 (37% of the calls). Around 57% of victims do not turn to the
police for help, and of those who had done so only 34% were satisfied with the
police response. The average period during which women experienced domestic
violence was three years.

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