Russian Resistance, More Monitoring
Although these feminist entrepreneurs and women’s crisis centers worked tirelessly, there is only so much that a small number of individuals can do in such an immense country. Their inability to reach the high levels of government was evident in the 2002 exchange between the CEDAW committee and government officials over Russia’s CEDAW report (Russian Federation 1999). Recognizing the global attention to violence against women, the official report talks the talk of addressing gender violence, expressing a desire to increase criminal responsiveness, to provide more social services, and to collaborate with women’s NGOs, but there is little evidence of real reform. For example, the report (Art. 6) casts as progressive the revision of the Soviet article on sexual compulsion. It also boasts of establishing a “network of agencies providing social services for women and children,” but closer evaluation of these social services, even from official reports, reveals that by the end of 2001, none focused on sexual assault.35 In other cases, the government takes responsibility for the women’s crisis centers’ achievements.
In response to the report, the CEDAW committee focused on Russia’s failure to enact any real reform, asking the important question of why there had been no specific legislation on any types of gender violence or no new procedures to hold police accountable.36 The Russian representative from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development then admitted that too little had been done, but blamed “centuries old mentality” and inadequate government infrastructure, and then backtracked, saying the gender violence was a “burning issue” that the government was working to address.
Following this exchange, human rights monitoring of Russia’s response to gender violence increased. For the first time, a Russian human rights advocate, the Moscow Helsinki group, took up the issue of gender violence (Lukshevskii 2003). The Geneva-based World Organisation against Torture, a transnational network of human rights organizations, released a study that included a section on violence against women in Russia (Benninger-Budel and O’Hanlon 2004). In 2003, Amnesty International began a transnational Stop Violence Against Women campaign, leading to a report on the problem in Russia (Amnesty International 2005). Additionally, ABA-CEELI, which had developed a CEDAW Assessment Tool to evaluate a country’s compliance with CEDAW, applied it to Russia (Duban 2006). This last report was extensive and well documented. The new gender expert at the ABA-CEELI Moscow office conducted 180 interviews and seven focus groups in 32 municipalities (in all seven federal districts) in addition to surveying recent scholarly articles and these human rights reports. All of these reports, except Amnesty’s, included substantive sections on sexual violence.