Woman Plus...
  N 1, 2002
    We introduce to you the author: Boris Panteleev - researcher at the NII (Scientific Research Institute) under the Prosecutor-General of the RF, Councillor of justice.
    He began his career in 1986 as an assistant of district prosecutor in the city of Kazan, where for the first time he faced cases of domestic violence: in the court he prepared and supported writs about deprivation of parental rights and eviction of home brawlers from the flats. Then he got a place of a judge, and later the Vice-Chairman, of the regional court. In 1998 he was appointed a senior assistant of Prosecutor of the Republic of Tatarstan specializing in public relations and relations with mass media; then he was conferred the rank of Councillor of justice. At the end of 1999 he became acquainted with Dayjan Post* who was holding a seminar aimed at prevention of women violence, and ever since Boris Panteleev is always occupied with this problem.

Interaction of the Public Prosecutors and social organizations aimed at prevention of domestic violence

Boris Panteleev

When we talk about domestic violence with officials of different law-enforcement organizations, most often we hear from them about their own helplessness and unreadiness of the female victims to defend their civil fights. I am convinced that in spite of all the difficulties and real problems there is no place for low spirits and indifference in this question!

A studied historical experience and modern materials, rendered by the American Lawyers Association, strengthen my assurance in it. Indeed, let us remember that as early as in the 60th in the United States of America racism was considered an almost every-day occurrence. Inscriptions "Except for Negroes and dogs" could be seen on the park benches and restaurant doors. Racial discrimination was taken by the society as a national problem and this problem was practically solved, from historical point of view, in a short period of time. Now political reasonableness exists not only in Hollywood films, but in practice.

In the 70th Americans got down to the solution of a gender problem. They had to dispel centuries-old prejudices about women status in the society, to get over historical and juridical precedents. Only one unconcealed "disproportion", clearly expressed in 25 years of imprisonment to a woman who killed her husband and 5 years - to a husband in a similar situation, is worth a great deal. According to a century-old tradition in the Anglo-Saxon law system an assault on a husband's life was always considered as a high treason - "assault on the king of your house". There were many other examples of open gender discrimination. But due to active and coordinated actions of citizens and specially established social units, nowadays this problem may be considered basically solved in America, though it still remains actual in private life.

When we first thought about the ways of fight against women discrimination in the Republic of Tatarstan and seriously analyzed the actual state of affairs, the picture looked very cheerless.

The principle of gender equality has been legally proclaimed in the Tatarstan Republic Constitution and officially it isn't prejudiced, though a bill "About polygamy", was considered in the State Council (parliament of the Republic of Tatarstan); the bill, as it was stated, was introduced in order to provide more profound social security of women. In Russia a similar bill was pushed ahead by LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), referring to so-called "New Russians" who allow themselves to have several families and manage to provide them. But in case of death of the family head all the property is left to an official wife and her children. It is this injustice, in its authors' opinions, that should be eliminated by their bill. In Tatarstan a religious factor is added to the economical issue: Islam allows each Muslim to have 4 wives.

In the town of Naberezhniy Chelni economy problems resulted in unemployment of many bread-winners due to the stoppage of the main conveyor of the "KamAZ", automobile plant. Concrete proposals to open a house of prostitution in the city and thus to solve the problem of public employment were put forward to the Mayor. This question was quite seriously discussed in the mass media.

Newspapers were full of advertisements announcing recruitment of beautiful girls for easy and high-paid job; employer openly demanded from female applicants preview and estimation of their appearance during an interview.

Really great amount of sexual crimes in the region, as well as all over Russia, was not always discovered and registered, as many victims don't address to local police station or withdraw their writs without bringing them to court. And criminal situation was and is rather tense.

The situation could prove hopeless and people seemed to have put up with it. Law-enforcement organizations were breathless with great amount of work but didn't feel any support from the population. A prestige of the whole law-enforcement system was obviously low.

An important legal bases for stirring up our fight against crimes against women was the fact that the year of 1998 was declared by U.N.O. a Year of Human rights to mark the 50th anniversary of assuming of the General Declaration of human rights; the corresponding Decree was issued by the President of the Russian Federation. These documents helped to show a true significance and concrete results of a hard everyday work of "law defenders with shoulder0straps".

Analyzing the functions of the press-cutting service of the Office of Public Prosecution and determining new tasks, accomplishment of which could improve the work of the law-enforcement organizations, we thought it necessary to place the emphasis on the Office of Public Prosecution return contacts with people. Undoubtedly, in order to make a right decision it is important to know what exactly the people think about the work of the Office of Public Prosecution, how they fancy the assumption of the prosecutor and how far, in their opinions, their expectations are realized in practice. That is why the first step was to publish in the mass media an announcement stressing willingness to listen to any opinion about quality and methods of work of prosecutors and other officials of law-enforcement organizations. The press-cutting service made an attempt to establish an active return link so that any acute critical publication in the mass media, any reference of a citizen or a representative of non-governmental organization to the Office of Public Prosecution was considered as demonstration of civic approach and desire to assist the justice in consolidation of law. No trifles and insignificant problems proved to exist in this question. In fact, every reference to the Office of Public Prosecution was caused by the reasons considered by the plaintiff to be extremely vital. By our estimation, an amount of letters-about-nothing-movers and "professional" litigious persons has significantly decreased nowadays.

Therefore, a seriously motivated address of a concrete citizen or a social organization to the Office of Public Prosecution, asking for help to decide some really important question, should be considered as a proposal to cooperate in solving this problem.

Another important measure is constant monitoring and analysis of the information, published in the media, in order to find tactical and strategic allies among the journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations for accomplishment of concrete tasks, put before the officials of the Office of Public Prosecution and other law-enforcement organizations.

I will set several examples of the "signals" from the society, received by us, concerning public understanding of gender problem which we are discussing today.

A young mother informed over the phone that her third-form son is " depraved right at school". Their school toilet walls proved to be covered but a great amount of erotic stickers from chewing gums and elder boys during the breaks read "lectures" for kids, referring to these "visual manuals" and using obscene phases.

One elderly man made a complaint. Returning home from the mosque on a Muslim religious holiday he dropped in a grocer's and bought there some bread, butter, milk and box of matches. Some "indecent pictures" were depicted on the box, which caused indignation of his wife who accused him of having "brought home an infection". The old man declared that such things shouldn't be sold to children and in common shops, and adults should be warned in advance.

Elderly Muslim women actively spoke in public against a large advertising transparency which was posted up in the square near the central department store. A new telephone book of the city of Kazan, "Yellow, white, blue pages", was advertised there; three girls' backs in pants of the respective colors with an inscription "Don't stay in the back!". They tried promptly to remove the transparency and punish the "seducers of the youth".

Agitated city-dwellers gave concrete information about souteneurs, addresses of dens, working under the guise of hotels, baths, tourist firms and so on.

These and many other appeals needed executive answers. But the general scope of work of law-enforcement organizations meanwhile didn't decrease; planned tasks were not canceled. As a result, we made it a rule not only to respond to city-dwellers' references by legal measures but to engage in solving the problems social organizations of the similar orientation and share the responsibility with them.

This approach resulted in the following: a general amount of work of the prosecutor turns out to change a little bit, involuntary waste of time shortens and the prosecutor's active role and capacities to act as supervisor essentially increase. The same work is carried out on a higher-quality level, with less efforts and, what is more important, such work is positively taken by the society, improves the prestige and authority of Public Prosecution officials.

As the most graphic example we may set an experience of cooperation of the Office of Public Prosecution of the Republic of Tatarstan with its women law-enforcement organizations "Femina" from the city of Naberezhny-Chelny and "Fatima" from Kazan.

It is generally known that the problem of fight against gender discrimination is widely discussed in all democratic countries; it is also actual in Russian Federation. Touched within this context questions of criminal, administrative, civil, labor, family, electoral, informational law without any doubts are under Directorate of Public Prosecutions. Each prosecutor to a certain extent has to occupy himself with these questions. No fundamental changes, explicit costs or long training is needed for mastering new methods.

Earlier in the Republic of Tatarstan there existed a number of social organizations, defending women interests; they were a national organization "Ak kalfac", Social council of female officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Business-club of female managers and so on. The experience of their cultural, educational and charitable work with veterans, children- invalids, socially unprotected people is undoubtedly interesting and valuable.

Nowadays in many cities of Russian Federation feminist law-enforcement organizations have already established new structures: 24-hours-round trust phones, educational and women crisis centers for women who underwent domestic violence and need juridical and psychological help.

Operative information, collected by them, is, without any doubts, of great interest to law-enforcement organizations - district controllers service, homicide divisions and departments investigating other crimes against personality, different subdivision of the Office of Public Prosecution of all levels. Analyzing already available statistic data in combination with the materials of these organizations we can form a clear view of the real situation with these kinds of crimes and work out the most effective preventive measures against the gravest crimes.

Moreover, skilled psychologists work on permanent basis in such organizations; they know the latest methods of contacts with a subject under post-crisis psychological syndrome, master specific contacts with under age rape victims - unfortunately, even skilled law-enforcement officials are not always armed with such knowledge.

Conscientious employee of the Office of Public Prosecution, always facing human grief, invariably tries to help a rape victim. As a rule, it is connected with waste of private time and emotional resources. Moreover, he has to do the work, that is not outright connected with his juridical profession, which adversely affects the results. Though there are many psychological methods created long ago and accessible to every interested person; these methods help an employee of the Office of Public Prosecution to bridge over the difficulties of contacting and communicating with the victim of criminal encroachment. Necessary assistance in mastering these methods can be rendered by base staff psychologists who are already working in the regional Offices of Public Prosecution.

Taking into account specific character of the criminal acts in question, namely particular features of psychological status of a victim and difficulty to prove that it was a forced crime, we came to a conclusion that different responsibilities should be shared between different specialists. It is evident that it is correctly planned and put into practice distribution of responsibilities will allow an investigator to concentrate all his attention on collecting and securing crime evidences, legal estimation of the crime, and a psychologist of a crisis center to render a victim affective psychological assistance.

An investigator may also permit crisis center employee to participate in consideration of a criminal case as an expert or a representative of the victim. Analysis of court practice shows that as a rule an accused in the given cases has a lawyer (sometimes he is rendered by the state free of charge), and the victim of an encroachment has to defend his rights during inquest and in court himself, which doesn't assist him in appropriate realization of constitutional principle of equality of the parts in adversary proceeding.

Moreover, feministic organizations are ready to take upon themselves preparation of informational support of similar legal proceedings, observing all the restrictions, stipulated by UPK (Criminal Code) of RF and international standards restrictions, fixed in order to defend the victim's interests and the authority of the system of justice.

There is no doubt that using this approach, the extent of achieving the objects of investigation and significance of the results of the preventive work of law-enforcement organizations will be higher. Another important fact is that the society apprehends favorable estimation of the work of law-enforcement organizations, should it be given by a non-governmental organization, as an opinion of independent arbiter, which is always more trustworthy and convincing.

The prestige of the Office of Public Prosecution in the society also undoubtedly rises if no citizens' appeal remains without respective effective reaction from an appropriate official of the law-enforcement system. But the decision of the question isn't always within competence of the Office of Public Prosecution organization, and some conflicts put law-enforcement officials before a difficult choice.

Today quite often prosecutors have to face new, uncommon situations when, for example, interested parties and organizations express well-founded claims to TV-programs, advertisements and posters, outright or under disguise connected with sexual exploitation of women and teenagers. In this connection citizens flatly demand from the law-enforcement organizations to interfere without delay in the mass media activities, to use concrete sanctions to those who openly break the civil order and norms of generally accepted morality.

In such cases an opportunity of cooperation with non-governmental organizations, as the most active representatives of civil society and interested allies in the fight against unlawful discrimination, can be also used.

The prosecutor, after analyzing the primary information and possessing sufficient arguments can decide to respond with a warning not to violate the law to a would-be violator (as it is stipulated by Article 25-1 of the Federal Law "On Public Prosecution"). Should it be necessary to realize this warning in the court, it is expedient to entrust this realization to a law-enforcement organization or a public association. That equal practical interaction will, in our opinion, fill up the powers, granted under Article 27 of the Federal Law of 19.05.95 ?82-FZ "On public associations", with concrete content, and, at the same time, will shorten legal procedures in activity of law-enforcement organizations and improve the prestige of the Office of the Public Prosecution.

There is a number of other "sleeping", for the time being, norms of our legislation which can be used in solving of the problems in question, but we shall speak about them in the article to follow.

*Dajhan Post used to be a director of gender programs of Association of American lawyers - ABA CEELY - in Moscow in 1998-99.