Woman Plus...
  N 3, 2002

Violence - is it a norm?

Irina Matveicheva, chairman of board of directors
ROO ZK "Artemida", head of the project
Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia

Due to active actions of native right defending organizations and crisis centers for women, an idea of an observance of human rights has essentially enlarged for the last seven years. Accordingly, an idea of the state's responsibility for violence in a family has also changed. Earlier the state was considered responsible only for activity of its government bodies, not for private persons activities. Today we accept a principle of "participation": systematical state failures in preventing or in suppression of violating of human rights, including private sphere of life, make the state responsible for it to the world community. Human rights are stated through the system of international legal regulations, which determine relations between the state and private person, relationships between people. These regulations are fixed in different international acts, accepted by UNO, also by the Council of Europe and other intergovernmental organizations: in declarations, treaties and conventions. Though in practice only few people really know how we can and should use these norms, what mechanisms of human rights protection exist, in particular, protection mechanisms of woman rights on life without violence in a family.

Moving apart the walls. Irina Matveicheva Last August Regional social organization "Women club 'Artemida'" set off creating a Network of social Bar service in distant districts of the Republic of Buryatia. The project is realized with financial assistance of the Trust Fund, supporting measures aimed at elimination of violence against women and belonging to UNIFEM, within the limits of regional Informational educational campaign, defending women rights on life without violence. The main goal of the project is to render assistance in absolute realization of women rights and liberties, guaranteed by the Constitution of Russian Federation and by international legal documents, through acting in their interests and improving current judicial opinion.

During the first weeks of work in the Republic the real situation was made clear. In the districts of Buryatia there are no really acting women organizations, and most of the working initiative women groups are interest clubs, without any legal registration and any concrete programs of actions. We cannot say that regional administration and law-enforcement structures don't take any preventive measures concerning violence against women, but theses measures are occasional and are not supported by the society, which reduces the interest of local authorities to solve this problem. Violence, and especially violence against women is not considered an acute social problem; 52% (!) of administration heads of the Republic of Buryatia say: "… we have no women problems in our region…" Under current economical crisis and destitution of the population the social services work badly because of the lack of "healthy" competition on the part of non-governmental social organizations.

In spite of such unfavourable conclusions, the participants of the project came to unanimous conclusion that without cooperation with law-enforcement organs and local government bodies they would not obtain necessary result. Thus, since last august they began to establish good business relations with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Buryat Republic (MIA BR). As an experiment, extra premises were rendered for the work of social Bar; they were located in the building of the police station in the city of Ulan-Udee. Duties together with the representatives of district militia officers of MIA BR were started, which allowed to get into direct contact with victims of violence and to work with them "hot on the heels". Joint meetings are regularly held, where joint work is summed up and analyzed and subsequent plans are designed.

On the other hand, our proposals on improving women positions, sent in August to the Ministry of labour and social development of the Republic, were taken into consideration during preparing of the draft Plan of actions of the Government of the Buryat Republic, aimed at increasing of women role and social status in economical and social development of the Republic in 2002-2005. This Plan was approved by the Government of the Buryat Republic in its decree ¹37 of 05.02.2002. In the issue "Development of the system of women social service. Rendering assistance to women, suffering from violence" there were such measures as creating of a series of social Bar services in the regions, organization and carrying of medical psychological consultations for victims of family violence, setting of "trusting phone" numbers for rendering extraordinary psychological assistance to women. However, ministries and committees were appointed the main executors, that is why it is not known whether social organizations obtain state financial support in case of taking part in designed actions. Nevertheless, social technologies, worked out by social women organization, are used by the Ministry of labour and social development of the Buryat Republic in establishing of state service of social assistance to the victims of violence, which may be viewed as a step forward.

Officials of "Artemida" worked out a manual "Organization and methods of work of social Bar service", revealing practical methods of rendering complex social legal assistance to female victims of domestic violence: interviewing and consulting, accompaniment in the court, rendering medical and psychological assistance, skills of personal safety. This manual was put as an on-line document at the organization's site and is available to everybody, but, for the time being, only in Russian language.

Nowadays, six branches of social Bar service are created and act in the Buryat Republic; for the most part they are located in the regions where there is unfavourable criminal situation and domestic crimes amount to from 75% up to 100% from the total number of crimes. For comparison: according to information of MIA BR, domestic crimes in the Buryat Republic amount to 67.3% of the total crimes, while in Russia this figure as a whole amounts to 40%.

Three departments of the Service were established on the basis of state organizations of social defense in Zheleznodorozhny district of the city of Ulan-Udee, in Kahtinsky and Zakamensky regions of the republic; two of them were established on the basis of social organizations: Women Union of Muhorshibirsky region and Center of supporting women initiatives "Harmony", and one of them was based under the administration of local government of the Tukinsky region of the Republic. In our republic it is the first occasion of solving problems of state structures, called upon to render social legal and social psychological services to women, suffering from violence in a family, by social merger. The first reports of their activity were already received and they showed that the problem of violence against women was very acute in the regions of the republic.

Discussing of the difficult cases by the officials of social waiting room For the first three months of work six departments of Social Bar service and social department of the Women club "Artemida" accepted more than 500 appeals concerning family violence, not counting appeals concerning law of master and servant, family and civil law. State organizations of social defense also manage well; both experience and participation in the educational seminar, concerning organization of activities of the Social Bar service. Appeals are different but the pain is the same - it is caused by the lack of personal safety of women in a family… and not only this.

A woman addressed to the regional center of social assistance to family and children of the settlement Zagorsk, where a Service of social Bar was established. Nowadays she is officiously divorced and brings up two children, one of whom is an invalid. She lives together with children and former husband in a two-room flat. The husband drinks and beats her. She addressed to the police, underwent forensic examination by experts. But the results were lost. Brother of the former husband, being the police officer, threatens the woman, "defending" his relative. The woman was given social legal advice, she was recommended to appeal to the Office of Public Prosecutor complaining on illegal actions of the police officer and demanding to institute proceedings concerning beating and harming health. The woman took rehabilitation course in the center.

A girl, 16 years old, appealed to the Service of social Bar of Kyahtinsky office of labour and social development with a complaint about threats of murder on the part of her… mother. The mother burned the girl's clothes. She has one more child who is one year old, he is brought up by a sick grand mother. Following the appeal, legal proceedings, accusing the mother of murder threat and non-fulfillment of her duties of bringing up children, were instituted.

A girl of nineteen yeas old appealed to the Service of social Bar of Zakamensky center of sound life style and family planning with a complaint about her father. The father became a widower long ago and lately has begun to induce her to sex, intimidating the girl by the fact that he is a shaman and can put the evil eye on her. After the appeal to the Service the girl was given social psychological advice and shelter, though in private apartments…

During the seminar in Tunkinsky region The results of the first travelling seminar in Tunkinsky region, which took place at the end of April 2002, shook us greatly. 48 people from the organizations, assigned to work at the problem of violence in a family, took part in the seminar. They are regional representatives, officials of social protection organs, of the Service of social Bar… A form, touching the forming of nonviolent relations in the society, was proposed. Everybody answered the question "Is there violence in the society, in a family and at work in our country?" in the affirmative. And those, who answered the question "Do you consider a suggestion to reduce the rate of violence in our country nowadays to be urgent?" in the affirmative, amounted only to 59.1%.

Only 41.1% of the questioned people answered the question "Do you think that violence is an essential part of human existence?" in the affirmative, while 6% of them desisted from the answer.

183 women from different organizations and establishments were questioned in Zakamensky region; 38% of them consider violence to be a norm of life.

The survey shows that a considerable part of the population in the Buryat Republic considers violence norm of life of the society. This discovery shocked us and made us think that invariability of stereotypes of public perception is the main obstacle on the way to the world without violence and the most important and crucial area of work for those who is ready to walk along this path.