Some Steps Forward
To outsiders, it may look like nothing has changed. Amnesty’s (2005) critiques of state practice, based on data collected in late 2004 and early 2005, were similar to the early Human Rights Watch reports. They found police inaction (such as the failure to enter an apartment when the abuser refused entry or refusal to accept a domestic violence complaint) and unauthorized use of force against the batterer (such as bludgeoning him) (30—35). They criticized lack of mechanisms, such as protection orders, for immediate defense of the victim (35—36); the rarity of state prosecution and conviction, which officials justify by means of bureaucratic rules (36—41); and the inadequate number of state shelters (41—44). The ABA-CEELI gender report also criticizes the emphasis of justices of the peace on reconciliation and the continuing housing problems and residency permit requirements (Duban 2006). Even though all citizens have a constitutional right to free and accessible healthcare, state medical personnel are often unwilling to treat injuries they know are a result of domestic violence (102). The network of state centers dedicated to social services to families and children have little knowledge of domestic violence, often treating the problem only through psychological treatment for the woman victim, whom they see as to blame (102—103). Although most authorities now will admit that domestic violence is a problem, few have been willing to take the responsibility to respond themselves.
Looking deeper, it is possible to see some steps forward. After years of global feminist pressure, there have been some procedural changes within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the ministry charged with policing. Apparently (although not yet with results), the ministry began collecting and analyzing data about the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim of a crime, a step that would allow for the documentation of registered domestic violence cases (Russian Federation 2004, 18).73 Further, as of 2001, a working group within the ministry has been meeting on violence against women, including domestic violence, “to assure the cooperation between federal executive bodies and social organizations engaged in these questions” (16). In 2006, the ministry launched a widespread campaign with the message, “Violence in the family? ‘Beat cop’ is from the word ‘compassion.’ . . . He will not remain apathetic to your problems” (see figure 5.1). Although perhaps more a promise than a reality, this is a far cry from the official denial of police responsibility dominant in the early years after the Soviet collapse. The parliamentary Committee on Women, Family, and Children has also recently been conducting roundtables with the relevant ministries and with the key Moscow crisis centers to discuss the problem of domestic violence (Open Society Institute 2007, 32).
Pockets of notable reform also include the following.