Women’s Empowerment in Russia

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MOSCOW — Throughout the history of Russia, the status of women’s rights and activities has varied a lot due to culture, religion, social and governmental impacts. The struggle for women’s empowerment in Russia remains a significant enterprise.

Russian women in the eighteenth century were better off than many of their European counterparts. Many victories for the freedom, legal rights and equality of women were won in the era of feminist reform between 1850 and 1917.

From the 1990s to the present day, feminism in Russia has been focused on equal rights in employment law, reducing domestic violence, political participation and democratic elections. In 1993, the equal rights of women and men had been enshrined in Article 19 of the Russian Constitution. It is also stipulated in Russian labor law that women have the right to paid maternity leave and paid parental leave, while parental leave without pay can be extended for three years.

Dual-income families are common in Russia. With respect to the statistics of ages 15-64 in 2014, the employment rate of women is 64.8 percent, almost 10 percent lower than men. Discrimination is still common in labor markets, and 456 occupations across 38 industrial branches remain closed to Russian women due to potential harms to their health. Barriers to entry and promotion are evident despite the fact that many Russian women have achieved great success in developing businesses of their own.

The social status of women in Russia remains problematic. Due to financial stress and shrinking social services, Russian women must maintain employment in spite of all kinds of difficulties. The declining birth rate and general deterioration of families have been the results of this deficiency. The fertility rate of Russia bottomed out at 1.20 children per family at the turn of the century. While this had recovered to 1.61 by 2016, it remains below the normal replacement rate of 2.1.

There is a long way to go to achieve women’s empowerment in Russia. While an anti-sexual harassment law was adopted in 2014, a newly passed law in early 2017 saw the partial decriminalization of domestic violence. Regarding to the relatively high rate of domestic violence that Russian women suffered from their spouses or intimate partners, feminists and activists questioned the potential defects of the new law. Under it, “minor harm” is considered to comprise small cuts and bruises, and this offence is merely penalized by a fine of up to $500 or 15 days in jail.

Such a law in Russia had aroused considerable objections due to its weakening punishment on violence and crimes. Emphasizing women’s empowerment in Russia is particularly urgent considering the national risk of demographic collapse. Addressing women’s empowerment in Russia can be helpful address this and other related social issues such as inequality of occupations, gender pay gap and further political rights.

In a variety of areas such as literature, science, aerospace, arts and sport, Russian women are making significant achievements and have been gaining worldwide respect. The battle for women’s empowerment in Russia will continue toward harmony in both social and family status.

– Xin Gao
Photo: Flickr

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