Despite progress, Russia has much to do to improve women’s rights – UN expert

27 December 2004

Although Russia has undergone administrative and legislative change that has contributed to improvements in the situation of women over the past decade, violence – particularly in the home – continues to cause injuries and claim the lives of thousands of women annually, according to a United Nations expert.

"The situation is further aggravated by the lack of sufficient shelters," Yakin Ertürk, the UN Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said in a statement on her official visit to the Russian Federation from 17 to 24 December 2004. "Violence against women and sex discrimination are still low on the State agenda."

She noted that in the North Caucasus, which has been roiled by a war against separatists in Chechnya, the State is confronted with the challenge of ensuring security whilst observing human rights.

"In this regard, some positive steps have been taken by the Government towards normalization in the region," she said. "However, the day to day lives of people is far from normal, particularly in Chechnya. I heard first-hand accounts of women being arbitrarily detained and tortured following targeted operations. This is said to be in response to women's involvement in terrorist attacks, particularly as suicide bombers."

The initial recommendations Ms. Ertürk made to the Government of the Russian Federation include: prioritizing women's rights in judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, policies and programmes; enacting legislation specifically criminalizing domestic violence and providing shelters for those in need; and launching gender awareness campaigns and providing training to law enforcement officers and security forces.

She also proposed that the Government ensure that all laws, policies and practices to counter terrorism fully meet fundamental principles of international law and international human rights standards; investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for violations of human rights and provide compensation to victims or their families; and establish a protection programme for human rights defenders, witnesses and victims who are at risk of harm.

She thanked the federal and local authorities for facilitating her visit and expressed her gratitude to human rights organizations, individuals and victims of violence for valuable information provided.

During the visit she met with representatives of the Federal Government and authorities of the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya and heard testimony from victims of human rights violations, relatives of "disappeared" persons, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs).


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