When coding different documents for WomanStats, you often come across surprising (and unfortunately many times horrifying) information about women in different parts of the world. There are a lot of things I didn’t know before joining the project. For instance, I didn’t know that “Women hold an unprecedented 64 percent of seats in Rwanda’s parliament, more than any another country in the world.”[i] I didn’t know that in 15 countries women can still be stoned to death,[ii] nor did I know that Finland has “rates of domestic violence almost twice the European average.”[iii]
I will also never forget the first article I ever coded which looked at domestic violence in Russia. As a side note, a majority of my studies throughout my undergraduate and graduate academic career have focused on Russian affairs with special concentration on the relationship between the United States and Russia. Therefore, you would not have surprised me by telling me that women in Russia have it rough. I knew about Russia’s major problems with trafficking of women and their historical patriarchal culture that disadvantages women. However, after reading that BBC article, I realized I had been seriously underestimating the problem that many Russian women faced inside their own homes. I know now that:
…according to estimates, based on studies in a few selected regions conducted by the Russian interior ministry, a shocking 600,000 women in Russia are facing physical and verbal abuse at home every year. Out of those, 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners. That is almost 40 a day… in Moscow, a city of 12 million, there is only one state-funded refuge.[iv]
For context, about 3 American women were killed daily by a spouse in 2012.[v] Not only are almost 40 women dying EVERY DAY from domestic abuse, and the Russian police can’t (or sometimes won’t) do much about it. There is starting to be a shift in the mindset of many Russians about the seriousness of this issue, yet domestic abuse is still not recognized as a crime in Russia.[vi] The problem of domestic violence in Russia also speaks to other issues as well. For instance, these statistics came from the Russian interior ministry but do not necessarily represent national estimates. They could, but it is hard to know for sure because there are no national estimates for domestic violence in Russia. Therefore, how can we truly know what is happening without good data?
Russia’s domestic violence problem highlights the need to raise awareness about a lot of issues that slip through the cracks of the global attention span. Russia does not like when we call attention to human rights issues, but does that mean we should just stop completely? I think there are many diplomatic ways to keep these conversations going despite challenges, especially for an issue that directly affects so many Russian women and, therefore, Russian society. It’s infuriating to watch problems like this continue.
Unfortunately, I could probably write for days, if not longer, on the infuriating things I learn as a WomanStats coder. (Perhaps, I am still in the “profound anger” stage of coding described by an earlier blog post “The Emotional Development of a WomanStats Coder”).[vii] I would definitely sleep better at night not knowing the full extent of many of the issues I read about for WomanStats. I am currently not in a position to actively take part in policy changes or choices directed at countries like Russia that allow such horrible abuse to be imposed upon its own citizens. But, I am in a position to write about what infuriates me, to make noise about unfair treatment of women in the places I learn about, and (at the very least) to contribute to the conversation. Knowledge really is power. Cliché? Yes. True? Definitely- you just have to use it.
[i] Gogineni, Roopa. “Rwandan Parliament’s Female Majority Focuses on Equality.” Voice of America, September 26, 2013. http://www.voanews.com/content/rwandan-parliament-female-majority-targets-equality/1757899.html.
[ii] Shameem, Naureen. “Women at risk as Brunei introduces stoning.” Women Living Under Muslim Laws, November 25, 2013. http://www.wluml.org/media/day-116-women-risk-brunei-introduces-stoning.
[iii] Hopkins, Valerie. “Finland’s paradox of equality: professional excellence, domestic abuse.” openDemocracy 50.50, November 27, 2013. http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-hopkins/finland%E2%80%99s-paradox-of-equality-professional-excellence-domestic-abuse.
[v] Chemaly, Soraya. “50 Facts about Domestic Violence.” Huffington Post Blog, November 30, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-actual-facts-about-dom_b_2193904.html.
[vii] JF2. “The Emotional Development of a WomanStats Coder.” The WomanStats Blog, June 4, 2012. https://womanstats.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/the-emotional-development-of-a-womanstats-coder/.