Media Coverage of Gender Violence

To provide a quantifiable measure of the impact of the new politics of gender vio­lence on Russian society, I conducted a content analysis of the print media. The Soviet legacy of using the media as mechanisms of propaganda meant not only that Soviet citizens had the literacy to read newspapers and magazines, but that they turned to these media for information. During the height of Gorbachev’s glasnost, the communist-era newspapers that had been charged with reporting only the official “truths” were liberated. They began publishing exposes of social problems and discussions of the taboos of Soviet history, greatly expanding their readership as most Russian citizens became engrossed in these newly possible conversations. The inflation of the early 1990s, however, brought an end to the romantic period of print journalism as the price of newspapers, without advertis­ing, became prohibitive. The Russian public, in general, turned to the television for their news. In an era of decreasing circulation of Russian newspapers, news­paper coverage reflects consciousness among intellectual elites and opinion lead­ers more than widespread public consciousness of the problem.

Content analysis within political science is typically a quantitative analysis that “relies upon the scientific method, including an observance of the stan­dards of objectivity/inter-subjectivity, a priori research design, reliability, valid­ity generalizability (with probability sampling from a defined population of mes­sages), replicability, and hypothesis testing” (Neuendorf 2004, 33). It has become a methodologically sophisticated process, but in this project, I use a simple con­tent analysis, employing the “bread and butter” of content analysis, the counting of manifest characteristics, to bolster the other methods of the book, including ethnography and discourse analysis. In other words, while accepting the primary assumption of discourse analysis—that reality is produced—I sought quantifi­able measures for shifts in social reality. This requires a relaxation of the positiv-

ist assumptions of content analysis as well as a relaxation in the claims of dis­course analysis that words have no stable meaning (Hardy, Harley, and Phillips 2004). Investigating gender politics, which shift reality, but which have increas­ingly been subject to positivist analysis, requires methodological eclecticism.

The content analysis was conducted using databases available from East View Information Services (www. eastview. com). In specific, I used three databases: (1) Central Newspapers, which includes over fifty daily and weekly newspaper of national importance, (2) Regional Newspapers, which covers papers and edi­tions from across Russia, and (3) Russian/NIS Newswires, which covers the wire service bulletins and includes only one non-Russian newswire (for more details about these databases, see http://online. eastview. com/login_russia/index. jsp). The search, with assistance from Gulnara Zaynullina, was first conducted in June— July of 2004 and then updated in 2006. The raw quantitative data is available upon request from the author.

We took terminology found in use by activists and searched for the number of articles in which the various terms appeared. As Russian declines its nouns, we used wildcards to represent the endings. Since the databases include promi­nent English-language newspapers, such as the Moscow Times, we included En­glish language terminology. This broader search proved somewhat problematic as articles could be republished in different versions of the national newspaper or reprinted in regional newspapers. For the most part, I decided that these repre­sented additional usage, in the sense that the regional newspapers chose to reprint the article. Other times, when the repeat was not meaningful—as when a tele­vision listing for the musical Chicago including “spousal violence” (search term: cyпpyжecк* /1 ташли*) ran for two weeks—the repeated publications were elim­inated. This analysis gives a sense of the relative frequency of the uses of different terms and a general sense of the salience of the issues.

As these databases added new sources over time, they could not be used to es­timate the change over time in the references to gender violence. I turned to the newspaper Izvestiia [News] for the data represented in tables 4.2, 4.3, 5.2, and 6.2. This long-running, high-circulation, national daily newspaper had been one of the few included in the databases from the early 1990s. And, although Izvestiia had been the mouthpiece of the Soviet government, after being privatized in 1992, the paper emerged as a fairly reliable source of information. Into the new century, the paper stayed somewhat critical of the Putin administration even as most other media had self-censored themselves as a result of his campaign to wield control over the mass media. For example, in 2004, during the hostage crisis in Beslan, which was bungled tragically by the Russian authorities, Izvestiia published a controversial photo that contradicted the administration’s line. In 2005, state – controlled gas giant Gazprom bought a controlling interest in Izvestiia, suggest­ing that the paper will cease to be credible as an independent source of news. To estimate the amount of media attention to gender violence over time, I used Iz­vestiia from 1994 up through 2005, conducting the same kind of terminological searches described above

Notes on measurement and method

This appendix provides more detail on the measurements and methods used to quantify mobilization against gender violence in chapter 3 and media attention to gender violence in Russia in chapters 4 through 6.

Women’s Mobilization against Gender Violence

Measuring the extent of mobilization against gender violence in Russia is a dif­ficult endeavor. As Weldon (2002, 223—24) discusses in detail, measuring wom­en’s mobilization is a challenge even in more established and stable democracies. There is a tendency among scholars to count the number of organizations or the number of activists involved with the organizations to approximate mobilization. This kind of data, if available, facilitates the use of statistical methods. The prob­lem is that mobilization refers to the strength and importance of these organiza­tions, which may or may not relate to the numbers of organizations or individu­als. For example, one small organization with a few official members may be very powerful. To get around this problem, Costain (1998) suggests coding accounts of organizational activities in the media. Weldon (2002, 224) measures the pub­lic support for the movement “as expressed in public opinion polls, newspaper editorials, number of signatures on petitions, size of demonstrations, behavior of public officials, and so on.”

Measuring women’s mobilization in Russia creates even more difficulties. As I discuss in chapter 3, NGOs in postcommunist countries have a tendency to emerge and disappear quickly, sometimes because the NGO was simply a mecha­nism to apply for a grant and other times because the environment was inhospi­table. Marc Howard (2003) conducted surveys across the region to get a sense of people’s involvement in civil society, but his was a question about the strength of civil society as a whole. The number of activists in the women’s crisis centers is so small that such a survey would be impractical. Moreover, Russia did not partici­pate in the largest survey of NGOs, the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (Kaldor, Anheier, and Glasius 2003, 359).

In a study that also looks at foreign intervention into Russia’s NGO sector, Sundstrom (2006, appendix 5) uses both the number of officially registered NGOs and estimates by local NGO resource centers. She recognizes that the official es­timates include inactive organizations and exclude those that have not officially registered, an onerous process in Russia. She adds the experts from the local NGO resource to provide a more accurate figure and acknowledges that these estimates may vary across region, not just because of different numbers of organizations, but also because of the different degrees of knowledge of these resource centers.

This kind of triangulation and recognition of biases seems the best that is reason­ably possible to do in Russia at this time.

My approach here is to give both conservative and generous estimates of the number of organizations working against gender violence (see table 3.1). These es­timates are based on fieldwork and third-party lists of gender violence organiza­tions in Russia from donors, transnational feminist networks, human rights ad­vocates, and Russian umbrella organizations concerned about gender violence. The lists I used were the following:

1. Founding members of the Russian Association of Crisis Centers for Women (RACCW), 1994

2. RACCW members, 1995

3. Participants in a Russian lawyer project for women’s crisis centers of Women, Law, and Development International, 1997

4. Organizations that self-identified as working on violence against women in a 1998 directory of women’s NGOs in Russia (Abubikirova, Klimenkova, Kotchkina, Regentova, and Troinova 1998, 9)

5. Organizations receiving funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) project to aid women’s crisis centers in Russia, 1999

6. Organizations receiving USAID funds through the IREX project to aid women’s crisis centers in Russia, 2000

7. RACCW members, 2000

8. Organizations working with USAID’s Trafficking and Information Dissemination Project, 2001—2004

9. Organizations working with USAID’s Trafficking Prevention Project in the Russian Far East and Siberia, 2001—2004 (Some organizations on this list were not included because there was incomplete information or because they were U. S. organizations.)

10. Network for Crisis Centres for Women in the Barents Region, 2003

11. Women against Violence Europe, 2003

12. ANNA Information Network, 2004

13. RACCW members, 2004

14. Angel Coalition, 2004

15. Directory of Russian organizations concerned about trafficking in persons from the American Bar Association Central and Eurasian Law Initiative, 2004

16. List of women’s crisis centers in Russia from the Open Society Institute, 2007

I rejected lists that did not seem credible, such as a 2004 list from UNIFEM of organizations working as part of its campaign against gender violence. I found that there was almost no overlap with any of the other lists, and when I contacted a random sample, I discovered that the organizations did not really exist or that the organizations had no experience with this kind of activism. With my research assistant, Gulnara Zaynullina, I compiled a master list of all organizations found on these various lists, making note of which and how many lists each organiza­tion was on. We also identified the organizations by region, using the eighty-nine regions that existed in Russia up in 2004.

As elaborated in chapter 3, the conservative estimates are based on fieldwork and on several of the lists that I knew from fieldwork included only organizations that were comprehensive women’s crisis centers, engaged in providing assistance to individuals and in broader advocacy, that had links to global feminist ideas. The master list of organizations allowed me to gauge the organizations’ longev­ity, links with other organizations, fundability, and issue orientation as well as the movement’s geographical distribution. As I describe in chapter 3, I use sev­eral of these larger lists for the generous estimates of the number of organizations working against gender violence in Russia. For the full data set, please contact the author.

Women’s human rights and gender violence

Documents that are in boldface have the status of international law.









Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women



makes VAW a priority, calls for legal measures and national machineries to address VAW


includes rape as part of VAW


Women’s human rights and gender violence



calls for measures “to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women” (Art. 6)

calls for


(1) Подпись:the provision of “[r]esources for the prevention of prostitution and assistance in the professional, personal and social reintegration of prostitutes. . . providing economic opportunities, including training, employment, self-employment and health facilities for women and children.”

(2) cooperation between govern­ments and NGOs “to create wider employment possibilities for women.”

(3) “[s]trict enforcement provi­sions. . . to stem the rising tide of violence, drug abuse and crime related to prostitution” (para 291)






CEDAW Committee General Recommendation 12 (1989)

calls for states to include VAW in their CEDAW reports

references “sexual violence”

CEDAW Committee General Recommendation 19 (1992)

elaborates on how VAW violates the articles of CEDAW

includes “sexual assault”

Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action (1993)

establishes VAW as a violation of human rights and calls for legal measures, national action, and international coordination to eliminate VAW

highlights the “systematic rape of women in war” (sec. I, para. 38)

U. N. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)

as the first U. N. document to do so, elaborates a frame of violence against women: rooted in unequal power between women and men and a key mechanism for subordinating women (preamble)

includes a broad frame of sexual violence, including marital rape

Beijing Platform for Action (1995)

established VAW as one of the 12 areas of central concern

one mention of rape

defines VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women” (113)

Beijing Declaration on Women (1995)

reaffirms a commitment to VAW and the Declaration on the Elimination of VAW

first time governments agreed to include VAW as a crucial issue




includes “sexual harassment at the workplace”

includes “abuses in the family”

includes “sexual harassment in the workplace” as undermining “equality in employment”

“Family violence is one of the most insidious forms of violence against women.”

includes “trafficking in women,” a form of “sexual exploitation”

links “gender-based violence” with “all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation” (sec. I, para. 18)

“stresses the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life” (sec. II, para. 38)

considers “international trafficking” as resulting in “gender-based violence” (sec. I, para. 18)

defines sexual harassment as part of VAW (art. 2)

advocates research

includes “trafficking in women and forced prostitution” as part of VAW (art. 2)

implied in various references to “violence against women”

implied in various references to “violence against women”

expresses concern about “forced prostitution” of the girl-child

asserts that a “harmonious

partnership” between husbands and wives is essential for the “consolidation of democracy” (para. 15)









Optional Protocol to reaffirms Vienna Declaration

CEDAW (1999) and Programme of Action,

the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,

allows citizens or groups to bring claims to the CEDAW Committee

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000)

Note: Russia ratified CEDAW in 1981 (as the Soviet Union), the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2004, and the Trafficking Protocol in 2004.


Подпись:defines “[trafficking in persons [as] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” (Art. 3a)

recommends the three Ps: prevention, protection, and prosecution



The findings of this study lead to the following recommendations for those activ­ists and scholars committed to the ideas of global feminism:

Global feminists should stay involved. It is understandable that some Western feminists would prefer to keep their hands clean by not involving themselves with interventions from strong states or even international development agencies. Un­fortunately, the costs of this approach can be high for women in the rest of the world. A century after the British claimed to be helping women through coloni­zation, the world is in the midst of a new wave of foreign intervention ostensibly to help women. When global feminists are not included in the process of design­ing and implementing interventions, the results are likely to be much worse.

Feminist involvement is especially important for the United States and for anti­trafficking efforts. It is especially important that those committed to global femi­nism stay involved in the U. S.’s foreign policy and work to hold the U. S. admin­istration accountable for its claims to promote women’s rights, not just protect women. This will be crucial if the U. S. Congress decides to pursue more legisla­tion similar to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act or the International Vio­lence Against Women Act. One strategy would be to call for institutional reform so that independent women’s groups have some institutionalized input into the U. S. State Department’s Office of International Women’s Issues. On the issue of trafficking, in the United States and beyond, it is important that feminists from all sides be involved in the process—and that they allow for disagreement on the issue of prostitution—in order to create an environment for local organi­zations to consider the options they see best to address the problem. Although some activists will probably balk at this pragmatic approach, this case study sug­gests the huge costs to feminist activism of imposing this ideological conflict. The messy conflicts between global feminists on trafficking in persons have given states more room to preempt the issue of trafficking.

Sustained, flexible, and responsive funding can work. Likewise, although there have been problems with NGO funding, feminist alliances with charitable do­nors, human rights activists, and intergovernmental organizations can work. Al­though some observers have been critical of the hierarchies created by long-term funding, such funding, this case shows, can promote change. Women’s activists in the postconflict regions, such as the Balkans and the South Caucuses, have been particularly impressed with the Swedish foundation Kvinna till Kvinna. They provide long-term financial support across ethnic, religious, and national af­filiations, through partnership with local women’s organizations, from the view­point that local women’s organizations know their own problems best. Until gen­der violence is eliminated—or at least until postcommunist states and society take full responsibility for eliminating violence against women—support should also available for everyday existence, not just projects.

The language of human rights has limits. The language of human rights has become a powerful tool for combating gender injustice and gender violence, es­pecially in industrialized and urban societies such as Russia, where there are no other good alternatives to countering Russian myths about gender violence. However, the language of human rights can be preempted by strong states in the service of “security” and “order,” especially when it leans toward discussions of safety and violence. This has become a bigger risk since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A more democratic approach would be to engage in the language of responsibility, not just rights. Women have rights to live free from violence, and states, men, and other women have responsibilities to prevent vio­lence. The language of women’s human rights has the greatest limitations when used to address trafficking in women (Ucarer 1999). This focus has downplayed what appears to be the growing problem of the trafficking in men for labor. The focus also can help hide the global economic inequality that shapes the problem. In more community-based societies, other strategies than human rights, such as collectively shaming abusers, may be more effective. The human rights approach should be seen as one among many strategies for pursuing change.

Statutory reform is not the be-all and end-all. There has been much global femi­nist attention to passing new laws against domestic violence, and many countries have passed legislation. Pushing laws without sufficient mobilization and trans­formation in the awareness of opinion leaders means that the resulting legislation is often toothless at best. As in Russia, laws on the books do not translate easily into changes in state practice in most countries, a lesson that should have been learned from the unfulfilled promise of Soviet-era commitments to address the woman question. New laws are only a small part of a larger process of reform that activists hope will lead to improved lives for women. States that pass symbolic legislation should not be off the hook, and global feminist resources may be more effective when focused on increasing local mobilization and shifting the public awareness.

There is a need for more thinking about interventions’ impact on marginalized groups. Perhaps the most underdeveloped aspect of the comparative study of gen­der politics continues to be the theorizing of marginalized groups such as ethnic, disabled, or queer women, but including these groups is an essential part of the new global feminist consensus’s intention to respect autonomous self-organizing (Weldon 2002; 2006). I urge my comparative social scientist colleagues to create more innovative ways to keep in mind all the multiple and intersecting hierar­chies across cases and levels of politics. Without this kind of analysis, progressive donors who attempt to reach such groups may, as happened with an EU project on domestic violence among ethnic minorities in Russia, undermine feminist projects and exacerbate racism.

More broadly, this study is a call for detailed empirical study of policy issues with gendered impact. By systematically comparing the impact of interventions, this book demonstrates how such feminist social science can be done. It also shows that this kind of research can produce insights into what initiatives might make things better for women.



The argument for global-local. structural framework

In terms of theory, this study demonstrates the analytical power of a global-local structural framework (see table 1.1). These chapters demonstrate that, following the emergence of the global feminist consensus, it is not correct to assume that gender politics is only a domestic process. Russia is a country more sovereign than most and thus not necessarily likely to be influenced by global processes. If even Russia was influenced by foreign intervention, this suggests that, by the mid – 1990s, international ideas, organizations, and institutions might also shape the national gender politics in most countries. Domestically centered gender policy analyses, such as feminist comparative policy studies, would do well to make sure to consider the potential impact of extranational institutions.

The global-local framework requires potentially influential structures at all levels, the mechanisms between them, and the direction of impact to be held up for observation. In this Russian study, the primary relationship is one of for­eign intervention in which the global has more impact on the local than vice versa. Russia’s gender violence politics was not in the shape of Keck and Sikkink’s (1998) boomerang, where local organizations draw in international organizations to end-run the state. The pattern was also not the ping pong model found in the EU gender violence policy, where activism and initiatives bounce back and forth between the EU level and the member states (Zippel 2006, 120). At this point, Russia’s gender violence politics was more like a game of catch. Global actors (do­nors, transnational activists, and governments) tossed the ball (funds, norms, di­plomacy) at Russia (activists, policymakers, social workers, and law enforcement officials) and waited to see whether Russia would catch or drop the ball or step out of the way. (Sometimes, as in the case of U. S. intervention on the issue of trafficking, the ball was thrown at the catcher’s head.) This variation shows that all three of these models are context-, time-, and issue-specific. The global-local structural framework is a reminder to consider the possibility of such variation.

Finally, the framework requires the inclusion of the impact of gender on the process and of the process on gender as a composite of norms, rules, institutions. When policy analyses do not foreground gender as a structural variable, they will miss potentially unsettling consequences and well as mischaracterize the causal mechanisms. In this Russian case, such focus on gender is essential to under­standing how and why the Russian polity both resists and accepts some global feminists arguments. It is also essential to recognizing the long-term costs of the antitrafficking intervention predicated on neotraditional notions of gender rela­tions. As this study shows, the assertion of social movement theory that success occurs when norms and models resonate with the local culture is not quite right. The new antitrafficking ideas resonate so much with Russia’s resurgent national­ism and gender neotraditionalism that they issue no critique of the underlying problems of gender inequality. As proposed in chapter 2 (see table 2.1), gender analysis should also consider whether initiatives contain any comprehensive fem­inism opposing sex/gender hierarchies. Many initiatives that are cloaked in femi­nist language are parafeminist (where gender is not seen as socially constructed) or pseudofeminist (where the initiative is simply designed to address problems typically faced by women).

How and when funding can work

A brief comparative analysis of other similar interventions on the issue of domes­tic violence in formerly communist countries in East and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union highlights how and why funding of gender violence ac­tivism worked in Russia. Most states in the region had experienced some inter­vention, and by 2006, most had passed some kind of domestic violence reform (Johnson and Brunell 2006; Brunell and Johnson 2007).

First, funding was targeted to an issue in which there was local interest, not just interest among international organizations and donors. Even before the di­rect interventions, several key Russian feminists in several large cities had been growing concerned about gender violence, and other activists were quickly mo­bilized because the problem of domestic violence was conspicuous in early post­Soviet Russia. In Armenia, Ukraine, and Moldova, by contrast, interest in the domestic violence issue was mostly an external imposition embraced by strategic women’s organizations who had little commitment to global feminist objectives (Hrycak 2006; Johnson 2007b). Funding to these organizations, like other civil society funding going into post-Soviet states, bolstered already existing patronage networks.

Second, both transnational and local activists were included in the design and implementation of the intervention into Russia’s domestic violence politics. The same was true of Bulgaria, which, as of 2006, was the first to adopt the re­gion’s most progressive reform, a protection order (Johnson and Brunell 2006).3 Although the opportunity for reform was created by Bulgaria’s desire to meet requirements for EU membership, the extensiveness of the reform was a result of tireless local activism, the appropriation and translation of a Minnesota law, and support from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (MAHR). As in

Russia, the distribution of funding to combat domestic violence in Russia was bolstered by an unusually inclusive relationship with local activists, the result of MAHR’s commitment to inclusion. In Russia, the relationship between trans­national and local was perhaps more balanced (vis-a-vis the West) than else­where because activists could benefit from Russia’s former superpower status. The norms of inclusivity that fostered the transnational movement against gender vio­lence (Weldon 2006) were successfully translated by transnational feminists into the intervention process.

Third, interest and funding into Russia’s domestic violence politics was sus­tained over more than a decade. The relationships built between some wom­en’s crisis center leaders and donors meant, in essence, multiyear and predictable funding for some key organizations until recently. Funding allowed these orga­nizations to grow in ways that many other women’s organizations could not. In the Czech Republic, activism was also stimulated by global feminist interest in gender violence combined with an infusion of financial support, leading to the creation of at least five crisis centers networked into WAVE, the European trans­national feminist network (Johnson and Brunell 2006). Reforms, consisting of a national training program for police officers and a law reclassifying violence in the home as a criminal offense, were passed in 2002 and 2003 after a cam­paign facilitated by the Women’s Network Program of the Open Society Insti­tute. However, as the Czech Republic improved its economy and as donor in­terest shifted elsewhere, Czech organizations lost the financial support essential to pursuing more substantial reforms and activism waned. Even this wealthier society, where per capita income is two times more than in Russia,4 lacked the necessary infrastructure, wealth, and cultural commitments to nourish feminist mobilization.

Fourth, Russia retained enough sovereignty that it did not give in to interna­tional pressure to pass symbolic legislation on domestic violence. In contrast, in those countries hoping to gain EU membership in 2004 or 2007, new policies on domestic violence were an easy signal of the requested gender-equality commit­ments. Yet, the EU’s new gender-mainstreaming approach—and the lower sta­tus of gender issues in the process of harmonization of local laws with EU law— has meant that superficial changes were often sufficient for real change (Krizsan, Paantjens, and van Lamoen 2005). Although described in English as about “do­mestic violence,” most initiatives employ native-language equivalents of “violence in the family” and—in practice—usually mean only child abuse. Post-Soviet states hoping to establish themselves as civilized, such as Ukraine and Kyrgyz Re­public, also passed laws designed to signal commitments to international norms. As in the Global South (Luciano, Esim, and Dubbury 2005), many reforms in the region represent only promises, without the necessary funds to support real change. On the other hand, Russia’s sovereignty, allowing it to resist international pressure, meant that there has not been national legislation on domestic violence. Delaying reform in Russia, paradoxically, preserved international and local inter­est, providing some fodder for continued activism and creating the possibility for meaningful reform. On the issue of trafficking, the more aggressive intervention from the United States’ threats of sanctions had the same effect as EU pressure on potential members: leading to mostly symbolic reform but little, if anything, to undermine the sex/gender hierarchy.

Why issue differences are not important here

The book’s argument also rests on an assumption that the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking in women have similar enough politics that the differences are not causally important. Perhaps they are different. Perhaps women who have been battered make more appealing claimants to donors and human rights advocates than victims of sexual violence, especially the ones who have cho­sen to travel abroad to engage in the sex industry but end up coerced. Granting women the right and the economic and social support to opt out of violent inti­mate relationships may be more easily incorporated into societal norms than ad­dressing sexual violence. Interest in funding anti-domestic violence initiatives, in a world where activists have succeeded in transforming battery from a private to a public concern, might also reflect the new trend of targeted consumerism as ac­tivism and might leave donors and human rights advocates less interested in sex­ual assault. In the specific context of Russia, Sundstrom (2006, ch. 3) argues that foreign assistance was more successful on the issue of domestic violence than em­ployment discrimination and sexual harassment precisely because domestic vio­lence could be framed in terms of bodily harm. In the language of social move­ment theorists, this framing was more resonant with Russian culture and society because it was universal.

Moreover, perhaps fully remedying sexual assault is a more radical undertak­ing than eliminating domestic violence as a systemic problem. It would require constituting a system and culture that recognizes women’s sexual autonomy and validates women’s rights to sexual pleasure. This is a monumental shift as even societies often seen as most progressive on this issue, including the United States, resist giving women the right and the opportunity to choose freely whether and when to be sexually intimate with another person (Schulhofer 1998; Zippel 2006). Finally, trafficking in women in some ways is such a different kind of issue be­cause it invokes more directly notions of state sovereignty and security, especially in the post-9/11 world.

Though I acknowledge these differences in the issues at a theoretical level, there is little evidence of their importance here. Sexual assault was the first issue that interveners took up in Russia and, despite some flux in global interest, re­mains a central component of the global critique of gender violence, for example as illustrated in a recent U. N. report on violence against women (see U. N. Sec­retary General 2006). Other forms of sexual violence, especially female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, have captured much international attention and resources in the 1990s and 2000s. Much like the campaign against domestic vio­lence, all these campaigns, at one time or another, have been driven by concerns other than realizing women’s full sexual autonomy.

More significantly, Russia’s gender violence politics is not at the stage of grant­ing women’s full autonomy, but at an earlier stage of recognizing that gender vio­lence constitutes bodily harm, a violation of women’s right to bodily integrity. The politics of institutionalizing a norm of bodily integrity for these gender vio­lence issues is mostly the same. In contrast to Sundstrom (2006), the analysis in chapter 4 shows that sexual harassment too is primarily cast by activists as an is­sue of bodily harm because of Russia’s history of regulating sexual harassment as a violent crime. Overall, since these gender violence issues operate in mostly the same way in this period of Russia’s history, the assumption of similarity is warranted.

Russia’s reforms in comparison. to the united states

The achievements of global feminist alliances with donors and the Russian women’s crisis center movement stand in clearer relief when contrasted with the United States. In the mid-1990s, a common refrain of the Russian activists was that Russia was some twenty to thirty years behind the United States in terms of activism, awareness, and policy responsiveness. They were right in that U. S. gen­der violence activism began by the early 1970s, and certainly Russia has a long way to go to provide even the level of responsiveness in the United States. How­ever, it took the United States more than two decades to pass national legisla­tion addressing violence against women, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Although the act has now been reauthorized twice, in 2000 and 2005, the most radical element, the allowance of a federal civil remedy, was quickly struck down by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also denies that there exists constitu­tional responsibility to protect women (and even children) from family violence, even if there is a protection order in place (Jones 2000).1 Further, concern about domestic violence has become de-radicalized, an issue of protecting the neotra­ditional family for conservatives and a reputation booster for companies such as Philip Morris/Altria. Many U. S. activists have also grown concerned about the consequences, especially for women of color, of requiring arrest and of depend­ing on the criminal justice system. High-profile rape cases reveal that the United States too has lingering beliefs about certain men’s entitlement to sex and linger­ing skepticism about actual claims of gender violence. Even on the issue of traf­ficking, controlling for population differences, U. S. law enforcement has been prosecuting approximately only the same number of cases as in Russia, where the criminal justice system remains, by and large, corrupt and ineffective (Tiuriu – kanova 2006, 79).2

At a time of prosperity and stability, the U. S. government made no other sig­nificant domestic institutional or policy reforms, instead focusing its attention only on women abroad. With no domestically focused, high-level women’s agen­cies within the federal government, the State Department’s Office of Interna­tional Women’s Issues has monopolized claims to be helping (foreign) women. In late 2007, the International Violence Against Women Act was introduced into Congress to provide billions of dollars to address gender violence globally and to create new offices in the State Department and USAID. Although this legislation, if passed, may provide some useful assistance, the insertion of the U. S. interest abroad is undermined by its recent history of the “global gag rule” (banning for­eign NGOs from receiving U. S. funds if they also perform or discuss abortion), the antiprostitution pledge (a similar ban for those foreign NGOs who consider the option of legalizing prostitution), and the denunciation of contraception in the otherwise generous global donation to address HIV infections. These inter­ventions asserting gender neo-traditionalism come on top of a U. S. war in Iraq seen by many in the world as an unlawful use of U. S. force.

Brief review of the findings

The new global feminist consensus on violence against women suggests three general objectives for intervention upon which to assess interventions’ success. On the first objective, the mobilization of local activism, the Russian case shows the weakness of the least intrusive form of intervention, transnational feminist networking. Despite activists’ hopes and scholars’ assertions, the impact of this new form of more egalitarian transnational organizing was mostly symbolic. As in most countries where resources for broad-based progressive social organizing are scarce, transnational networking among feminists reached Russian feminists only in global cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. With only small grants, these local activists could appropriate the international model, the women’s cri­sis center in which volunteers staff a crisis hotline, but they could neither cre­ate a broader movement nor become successful advocates for societal or policy change.

Similarly, such minimally intrusive interventions are likely to have little im­pact on the second and third indicators of intervention success, raising aware­ness and increasing state responsiveness in policy and practice (see table 7.1). In the intervention on the issue of sexual assault in Russia, transnational feminists’ joining forces with human rights advocates to try to enforce new global norms led to virtually no changes: no measurable shift in the awareness of sexual as­sault as a violation of women’s rights and no state reform. Although the Rus­sian government now acknowledges violence against women in its reports for various international women’s rights processes, such as CEDAW, the commit­ments remain empty promises without the imposition of additional incentives. The “Helsinki effect”—the impact of the acceptance of human rights norms by legitimacy-seeking repressive states (Thomas 2001)—was minuscule, if anything. For those concerned about re-enacting imperialism—who therefore shun more invasive i nterventions—the results are frustrating. In countries such as Russia, minimally intrusive interventions are not sufficient to foster the realization of new global norms.

On the other hand, the most aggressive interventions are likely to provoke only superficial reform and risk reinforcing the sex/gender system that feminists seek to undermine. As illustrated in the U. S.’s intervention on the issue of trafficking in women, when another state issues economic (or military) threats—even if ac-

TABLE 7.1. Foreign Intervention into Russia’s Gender Violence Politics



impact on raising awareness & increasing responsiveness

Sexual assault

global feminist alliances with international human rights advocates (blame & shame)

little change



global feminist alliances with donors (blame & shame + assistance)

increased awareness and some reforms of policy and practice

Trafficking in women

state preemption (blame & shame + assistance + state pressure)

pseudofeminist legal reform

companied by lavish funding of local organizing and reform initiatives—the in­terests of the intervening state overwhelm the concerns of women on the ground. The funding of women’s organizing in Russia was refracted through the U. S.’s evangelical politics and exploited global feminist disagreements over how best to tackle trafficking in women. The Bush administration’s requirement that fund­ing recipients be antiprostitution, in a context where this debate does not make much sense, led to the institutionalization of conflicts within the Russian move­ment and the de-funding of the robust feminist crisis centers. In the post—9/11 era of preemptive foreign policy, U. S. threats of economic sanctions spurred the Rus­sian parliament to adopt national legislation criminalizing human trafficking, at­tracting a great deal of media coverage in the process. However, the reforms in­clude no assistance for victims and nothing to prevent future trafficking, and in a state where police wield arbitrary authority, criminalization may put women in more precarious positions.

More broadly, with the inhibition of local feminist activism, the increased cov­erage of the issue and the reforms were predicated only on remilitarized visions of the global order mixed with resurgent nationalism characteristic of both the Bush and Putin administrations. Trafficking in women mattered to the Russian media and Russian politicians because they understood that the bodies of Rus­sian women were being exploited by foreigners and because the solution involved strengthening Russia’s coercive forces. Once again casting men as the protectors of women, the reform contained no critique of the use of violence by men against the women they are assigned to protect. While some women may benefit from the arrest and prosecution of their traffickers, the aggressive intervention reinforced the gender neotraditionalism with which all women in Russia must contend. States, all of which remain dominated by elite male interests, do not preempt a comprehensive global feminism, but only a kind of pseudofeminism in which they claim to want to protect women, but do nothing to enforce women’s rights or transform gender. For those policymakers imagining aggressive campaigns to help women globally, be wary of relying on even well-intentioned states.

What proves most effective at achieving all three global feminist objectives, as well as the larger goal of undermining the sex/gender system, are alliances be­tween global feminists and large donors. In terms of supporting local activism in Russia, the women’s crisis center movement developed only with the addition of substantial funding from international development agencies and large chari­table foundations that made new commitments to global feminism, including hiring and otherwise including global feminists. Likewise, as demonstrated for the issue of domestic violence in Russia, these alliances were effective at fostering new awareness and state reform. Within a decade, these alliances led to multiple, widespread public awareness campaigns and collaborations with local activists who successfully translated global norms into the Russian vernacular. Unlike the alliance between global feminist and human rights advocates without the addi­tion of substantial funding, these campaigns resulted in increased coverage of the issue in the media, sometimes even reflecting feminist ways of thinking about do­mestic violence. In turn, opinion leaders such as journalists and local politicians as well as the general population have grown less tolerant of domestic violence. In response to the international attention, several of Russia’s regions passed new domestic violence laws, others opened shelters, and yet others developed innova­tive cross-institutional relationships, such as between the local crisis center and the police. Although awareness and reform are incomplete, this kind of funded intervention has led to significant steps toward the global feminist objectives of mobilization, broader awareness, and policy reform as well as the end goal of un­dermining the sex/gender hierarchy.

Such funding of NGOs and of other democratizing reforms has come under a lot of criticism by academics recently. The most biting criticism from those con­cerned about progressive reform is that such funding may contribute to welfare state retrenchment; the new NGOs, especially those providing services that were previously responsibilities of the state, may legitimate less government interven­tion. The activism and impact of the women’s crisis centers in postcommunist Russia demonstrates how foreign-funded NGOs can become much more than in­struments of neoliberalism. Although perhaps not the mass-based women’s move­ment imagined by nostalgic Western feminists, the women’s crisis center move­ment represents a successful combination of organization and activism, the kind of organizations that build civil society and deepen democracy. Most activists were not ready to absolve the state of responsibility to address gender violence; instead, they were making powerful arguments for the resumption of some pre­vious state responsibility and the addition of new responsibilities. Especially con­sidering their critique of economic domestic violence, these organizations were charting a middle way between state and market. Moreover, while the interna­tional funding had strings attached and perhaps heightened suspicions within the movement, it also provided essential economic resources for a society undergoing massive economic and social dislocation.

Comparing foreign financial assistance to both more and less intrusive inter­ventions illustrates that critics of democracy assistance have overstated their case. Such large-scale funding initiatives can indeed cause all sorts of problems, but supporting democratic and justice-oriented NGOs is the best option available if activists want to promote global change. The essential question to investigate, to which I will return, is how to make these funded interventions successful.