So far, our coverage of Russian women on this site has been limited to the fuchsia excesses of teen billionairess and burgeoning fashionista Kira Plastinina. Well, an NPR report that aired this morning shows a sobering reality of Russian womanhood that's so far from Plastinina and her rancid materialism as to be rendered absurd. Gregory Feifer reports from Moscow that 14,000 women die each year in Russia at the hands of their male partners. What's more: wife beating is not considered a crime, and 50% of women in a recent survey say they have been physically abused by their spouses. "The real number of victims is impossible to count as [domestic violence] is seen as a private matter, not to be aired in public," Feifer said. In fact, Feifer notes that there is an old proverb that many Russian women seem to have internalized: "If he beats you, he loves you."
There is no upside to this story, so I will continue to list the gritty details. According to Amnesty International, "The Russian Federation does not have a specific law on violence in the family," and NPR reports that for the police to intervene in a domestic violence situation, the injury has to be so grave as to "prevent you from work for two weeks."
Number of women's shelters in Moscow: 0. Number of beds in the nearest women's shelter to Moscow: 7. Because housing is so expensive in Russia, many women, like one of the women interviewed by NPR, have to go back to living with their murderous ex-husbands because they can't afford to go anywhere else. Amnesty International tells almost the identical story, one of a woman named "Anna."
In December 2003, after her husband had threatened to set her on fire, Anna finally decided to file for a divorce. Incensed at her action, her husband destroyed the family's possessions, including dishes and clothes. In March 2004, a week after the couple had been officially divorced, she returned with her older son to the flat, as she had nowhere else to go. Her ex-husband told her that he did not recognize the divorce and that he was going to have sex with her. During the incurring argument he doused her with inflammable liquid and tried to set her alight. While Anna had witnesses who could confirm what had happened, the police told her they could not do anything, because he "had not committed a crime". According to Anna, the police did not pay attention to the fact that he had a lighter nor did they check her coat which was soaked in the liquid.
Some Russian women, like pop star Valeria, have started to speak out against the endemic violence in their country, but silence on the matter still seems to reign. To send money to Amnesty International, click here.
Domestic Violence A Silent Crisis In Russia [NPR]
Russian Federation: Nowhere To Turn To: Violence Against Women In The Family [Amnesty International]
Domestic Violence: Russian Women Speak Out [BBC News]