Materials from the conference "Violence in the Family, Violence in Society"
Zvenigorod and Moscow, Russia
October 15-17, 1997
APPEAL TO THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION
ON WOMEN, THE FAMILY AND DEMOGRAPHY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
The round table "Violence in the Family - Violence in Society" was held October 15-16, 1997 under the initiative of the NIS-US Women's Consortium and the Crisis Center "Anna." The meeting was attended by representatives of crisis centers, hot lines, hospices, both NGO and municipal shelters for victims of violence, researchers, journalists, lawyers, and NGO activists.
The round table showed that the fight against domestic violence is going on throughout the Russian Federation; among the participants were representatives of crisis centers from Irkutsk, Barnaul, Langepas, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil, Voronezh, Astrakhan, Arzamas, Nizhny Novgorod, Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, Novgorod Veliky, Saint Petersburg, Moscow and the Moscow Oblast.
The organizers are guided by the letter and spirit of the Russian Constitution, which stipulates that "no one should be a victim of violence " and "the dignity of a person is protected by the state" (Chapter 11, article 21, p.2,1). They refer to the international rules and regulations which have been ratified by the Russian Federation, i.e. the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948), the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(1979), the Vienna Declaration and Platform of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), the Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) and documents of the 4th UN World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).
The participants of the round table state that domestic violence has become a serious problem, for example, up to 40% of all the murders are committed within families and their main victims are women and children. Annually, around 2,000 children commit suicide, 50,00 of run away from home and more than 14,000 women are victims of violence wrought by their husbands and relatives. Sometimes unreliable, statistics in Russia show that violence towards women in the family is growing to unheard of proportions, and this problem concerns all women - "regardless of their social and material status or cultural background" (Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women).
The participants of the round table recommend that the following actions be undertaken in order to cope with this problem:
1. Appeal to the Presidential Commission on Women, Family and Demography of the Russian Federation to organize a permanent working group which will address the problem of domestic violence. This working group should include representatives of government organs that deal with eradication of violence in the family (militia, courts, prosecutors, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development of Russia, as well as other federal, regional and local bodies) and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
The working group could develop proposals and recommendations for 1) cooperation between law enforcement agencies, institutions of social protection, government departments and NGOs; 2) special programs for the representatives of law enforcement agencies, medical, social and other organizations with the participation of NGOs; and 3) implementation of these programs into the practice.
2. Recommend that the working group put forth a new concept of domestic violence. The new approach to the problem should take into account the seriousness of the fact that society views it as only an interpersonal problem, as well as to reiterate the obligation of the state to guarantee human rights in all aspects of life, including the family.
The approach to violence within the family as the mere expression of family scandals and a result of alcoholism and bad housing conditions is very primitive. Domestic violence is reported in all population groups regardless of their social status and way of living. We believe that domestic violence is a way of violent behavior which results in society considering violence as an acceptable means to solve conflicts. Therefore, "violence towards women is the historical demonstration of the uneven power possibilities between women and men (Platform of Action, page 118).
3. As a summary of the working group's activity, ask the Commission to begin work on legislation which will enforce the penal, civil, labor and administrative measures for the protection of citizens from all forms of violence.
The new draft legislation "On the Basis of Social-Judicial Protection of the Family from Violence" should correspond to international standards and not contradict to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the laws of the country.
Since there is a lack of a criteria defining violence as a crime, it is imperative to adopt a federal law to regulate this problem. We believe that the basis of this legislation should be an interdisciplinary approach which delineates clear, legitimate powers and responsibilities of all sides for the eradication of violence in the family.
The legislation should stipulate special rehabilitation programs for victims of violence, as well as individuals who commit violent acts in order to lower the crime rate and prevent violence.
4. The participants of the round table consider it necessary to create the position of a Special Reporter on women's issues within the Commission on Human Rights according to the practice of the United Nations.
Sponsored by the NIS-US Women's Consortium and the Crisis Center "Anna" with support from the Ford Foundation and the Office of Women in Development of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Last updated: December 1997