Things are starting to change [for women who experience violence] in that there are hotlines, support groups and women who understand them and are willing to listen. But I haven't seen a change in the government. If anything had changed, they would set up shelters and clinics.

-Lola Karimova
Syostri, Moscow, April 22, 1996

Violence against women in Russia continues to be an enormous problem that Russian law enforcement appears to be uninterested in addressing. Russian law enforcement places significant obstacles and disincentives in the path of women seeking to report, and the Russian government, while having made several welcome statements about fulfilling its obligation to provide women equal protection of its laws through combatting violence against women, has yet to make substantive changes in how law enforcement deals with such abuse. Most important, the government has failed to demonstrate that it will prosecute sexual violence diligently or that domestic violence is a criminal act that will be punished accordingly.

The current process of filing and pursuing claims of domestic and sexual violence includes so many obstacles and disincentives for women that it effectively denies them their right to equal protection. The government has issued declarations against such violence and has begun to communicate with nongovernmental organizations, especially the crisis centers, that work on this issue. But, to our knowledge, all its recent efforts in prevention appear to be entirely concentrated in the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection rather than the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for enforcing the criminal laws. In order for the Russian government to "ensure" women's human rights as it is required to do under the ICCPR and CEDAW, it must reform the investigatory process to provide women equal protection of the law and to protect the human rights of victims. In particular, the collection of medical evidence needs to be facilitated, and law enforcement has to be trained in effectively investigating violence against women. Although the government has already begun that process, it now must follow through and continue its cooperation with the crisis centers, which at this time are the only organizations helping women navigate the obstacle course they face to pursue a claim of violence successfully.


This report is based on research conducted in Russia in April 1996 by Robin Levi and Kathleen Peratis. It was written by Robin Levi and Regan E. Ralph and edited by Dorothy Q. Thomas and Rachel Denber.

We would like to thank all of the courageous women who shared their experiences with us.

Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project

Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.

We stand with victims and activists to bring offenders to justice, to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime.

We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.

We challenge governments and those holding power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law.

We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.

The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Susan Osnos, associate director; Michele Alexander, development director; Cynthia Brown, program director; Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director; Patrick Minges, publications director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Susan Osnos, communications director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Wilder Tayler, general counsel; and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.

Its Women's Rights Project was established in 1990 to monitor violence against women and gender discrimination throughout the world. Dorothy Q. Thomas is the director; Regan E. Ralph is the Washington director; Samya Burney, LaShawn R. Jefferson, and Chirumbidzo Mabuwa are research associates; and Evelyn Miah and Kerry McArthur are the associates. Kathleen Peratis is chair of the advisory committee and Nahid Toubia is the vice chair.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki

Its Helsinki division was established in 1978 to monitor and promote domestic and international compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. It is affiliated with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which is based in Vienna, Austria. Holly Cartner is the executive director; Rachel Denber is the deputy director; Erika Dailey, Malcolm Hawkes, Andreas Lommen, Maxine Marcus, Christopher Panico, and Diane Paul are research associates; Diederik Lohman is the Moscow office director, Alexander Petrov is the Assistant Moscow office director; Pamela Gomez is the Caucasus office director; Marie Struthers is the Dushanbe office director; Acacia Shields is the Central Asia/Caucasus Coordinator; and Liudmila Belova, Emily Shaw, and Juliet Wilson are associates. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the advisory committee and Peter Osnos and Alice Henkin are co-vice chairs.

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