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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Abuse shows its face in Russian subway

    While walking through the subway station downtown, which is home to many upsetting scenes, I saw something which left me feeling isolated, shocked and depressed: a beaten woman begging for money.

    Anyone who is familiar with the public transportation of a large city knows that the accessibility brings many types of people. Anyone familiar with underground public transportation in cold climates knows that it is often home to the homeless. What many might not know is that the homeless in countries poorer than America are in much worse condition.

    But that’s not the point. The point is: I have seen many things in the Russian subways, none of which struck me as much as the poor woman I saw last week. And none of which led me to uncover as much disturbing information as I have about the lives of women in Russia.

    I immediately noticed this woman because she stopped a man walking by her, as if asking for directions, and then another. Neither of the men said anything. When buying my ticket to the subway I noticed her again, this time receiving money from a group of older women. It was at this moment that I saw her face, distorted and blue, with one eye shut.

    There is no way for me to really

    understand that woman’s situation. There may be several reasons why she looked that way. To assume anything would be unfair, but the point of this anecdote is to illustrate what inspired me to do a little research.

    Domestic violence in Russia is not recognized as a crime. According to National Public Radio, nearly 14,000 women die each year at the hands of a male partner. There have been dozens of reports by Amnesty International over the last decade about domestic violence in Russia and post-Soviet countries such as Georgia, Armenia and Belarus.

    According to NPR, in a segment entitled “”Domestic Violence: A Silent Crisis in Russia,”” Russian law does not recognize domestic abuse of women, and in order for a prosecution to occur the level of abuse must be categorized as medium, high, or murder ð- the lowest of which would require the victim to be unable to work for at least two weeks.

    Domestic violence in Russia encompasses not only physical harm, but also psychological and financial harm and the deprivation of necessities.

    According to Amnesty International, domestic violence in Russia is still being treated as an internal, social problem, deeply engrained in a patriarchal society, without being recognized as violation of basic human rights.

    All of the unbelievable statistics published come only from reports, whereas the numbers of instances that have not been noticed or reported are incalculable.

    But, amidst this disturbing and apparently rampant reality, I have only seen one instance of potential domestic violence: the woman in the subway station. The experiences, which I am a bit closer with, in retrospect, seem to elucidate this national problem.

    After the first month abroad, the students wishing to stay the remainder of the time in homestays left. Before leaving, there was a disclaimer: cultural differences in Russia, particularly in homestays, may be difficult to adjust to. Among the students I have talked to living in Russian homes, the expectations can be different by gender.

    One student, from Texas A&M, said he was surprised at how little he was asked to do. When he tried to take his dishes to the kitchen his host parent insisted that it was her job. Although this seems like it may just be a result of being a guest, another student said her expectations were the opposite. Taking the dishes to the kitchen and helping clean up were often expected.

    Similarly, other students have mentioned household tasks, such as doing laundry and cleaning their room among others, as varying between gender. In many cases, males were not asked to participate in any of the domestic tasks, while females were expected to. Although it is difficult to understand why the experience of Russian homestays differs according to sex, it seems to suggest that men, in general, are catered to more often than women.

    While some may dismiss this evidence as normal for different cultures, it may also be looked at as a mentality – one which is engrained not only in Russians but in many people, which makes domestic violence and misogyny seem less abhorrent.

    In the United States there is no question that domestic violence is still a problem which plagues many households, but in Russia, the level of abuse toward women is so deeply seated within the culture that it may take dozens of years to invoke the notion of human rights for women. So, whether it is a woman directly affected by domestic violence or one who is expected to clean in their Russian parent’s home, it is clear that the status of women in Russia is not comparable to those living in the United States.

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