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.