State Parafeminism and State Services
Interventions, backed up with foreign funding, have had a greater impact on the so-called soft ministries. The first sign was the 1998 U. S.-Russian conference on domestic violence (in Russian, “violence in the family”) held in coordination with the Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Development. Built upon U. S.- Russian connections made during the 1995 U. N. conference on women in Beijing, the conference was scheduled during then U. S. first lady Hillary Clinton’s visit to Russia, and brought together government official from all branches and thirty-two regions of Russia, leaders from the women’s crisis center, and American feminist entrepreneurs. Although the ministry had not previously expressed much concern about domestic violence,47 the conference resolution declares that the government of the Russian Federation “recognizes the problem of violence against women, including domestic violence, as one of top priority, which is of special concern in Russia.’48 It called for new independent legislation on domestic violence, partnership with NGOs, and a government campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence.
By the new millennium, activists had also found allies in the little parafemi- nism that remained from Soviet times. The most important was the Commission for Women, Family, and Demography, created in 1993 in advance of Beijing and chaired by Ekaterina Lakhova, a feminist who also had connections to the women’s crisis center movement and who was head of the Women of Russia faction that had initially proposed the domestic violence legislation^9 Another ally was the Department on Women, Family, and Children, which held several annual conferences, in collaboration with RACCW, to foster the exchange of local and foreign experiences with addressing family violence.50
These new allies, in the face of global feminist pressure, added domestic violence to official plans to improve women’s lives. The “National Action Plan on Improving the Status of Women in the Russian Federation and Promoting their Role in Society” was called for in the Beijing process, first drafted in 1996, and revised in 2001 by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development for 2001 and 2005. The second plan called for a variety of responses to violence in the family, including coordination between this ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the General Prosecutors’ Office. The plan also called for the widespread establishment of state-supported crisis centers and shelters. Although underfunded and still rare—23 out of 3,371 crisis centers in 2005 were exclusively for women (Duban 2006, 102; Zabelina et al. 2007, 21, 103)—these state-supported centers represented a new commitment to assisting women living in violent relationships during a period of widespread welfare state retrenchment^1 In 2006, twelve of these provided temporary shelter for women (and their children) suffering from domestic violence (Zabelina et al. 2007, 21).