Regional Ombudsmen, Human Rights and Women – Gender Aspects of the Social and Legal Transformation in North-West Russia (Based on Ombudsman Reports)

in The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
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In the center of the article is the new regional ombudsman institution in Russia and its activities vis-à-vis the protection of women’s rights. The article seeks to analyze how complaints filed by women are presented and how the status of women’s rights within the context of human rights is described in the ombudsmen’s annual reports. The analysis of the reports proves ambiguities of interpretations of human rights; it also shows that many of those filing complaints do it because of the violations of social and civil rights, and that the majority of those experiencing discrimination are women. However, in most of the cases the ombudspersons do not pay attention to the gender-specific dimensions of the discrimination nor have they identified this as an important problem in contemporary Russian society. This situation is connected with the absence of a legal or political mechanism for gender equality in Russia as well as a displacement of women’s rights issues in favor of a focus on family issues and demography in the Russian public discourse of the late 2000s.

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8)

Barbara Engel, Women in Russia 1970-2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Wendy Goldman, Women, the State and the Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Yulia Gradskova, Soviet People with Female Bodies: Performing Beauty and Maternity in Soviet Russia in the Mid 1930-1960s (Stockholm: Stockholm University Doctoral dissertation, 2007).

19)

Christian Frölich, “Balansirovanie na grani: rossiiskie NGO po rabote s invalidami mezhdu inostrannymi sponsorami i vnutrennei politikoi,” Zhurnal issledovanii sotsialnoi politiki 8, no. 2 (2010).; Lyasian Shafigullina, “Zhenskie obshchestvennye organizatsii Respubliki Tatarstan: Problemy instituzionalizatsii i deiatelnosti (seredina 1980-kh-2000e gody)” (Kazanskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, 2010); Janet E. Johnson & Aino Saarinen, Assessing civil society in Putin’s Russia: The plight of women’s crises centers, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol.44, 1, pp. 41-52.

20)

Michele Rivkin-Fish, “Pronatalism, Gender Politics, and the Renewal of Family Support in Russia: Towards a Feminist Anthropology of “Maternity Capital”,” Slavic Review 69, no. 3 (2010), pp. 701-724.

22)

In 2008, for example, about 50% of complaints to the federal ombudsman concerned civil rights (including courts, convicts and rights of migrants), about 30% constituted social rights, about 12% – economic rights – “Svedeniia o kolichestve i tematike obrashchenii grazhdan k upolnomochennomu po pravam cheloveka v Rossiiskoi Federatsii v 2008 godu,” (2008). http://old.ombudsmanrf.ru/doc/ezdoc/08b.shtml.

23)

Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice : Psychological Theory and Women's Development (Cambridge: Harward University Press, 1982).

28)

Yulia Gradskova, ““Supporting the Genuine Development of the Child”. Public Childcare Centers Versus Family in Post-Soviet Russia,” in And They Lived Happily Ever After, ed. Helene Carlbäck, Yulia Gradskova, and Zhanna Kravchenko(forthcoming).

29)

 See, for example, report from 2008, p.34 (http://ombudsman39.ru/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/doklad-2008.pdf). However, the activities aimed for “gender equality” continue to be present on the ombusman’s web-site – http://ombudsman39.ru/gender_equality

32)

Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia. Human Rights in History (Cambridge and London: Harward University Press, 2010). 223.

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