Russia: Mockery of sexual harassment claims against MP prompts protest on International Women’s Day

Russia urgently needs legislation to protect against all forms of gender-based violence, along with an end to the government-endorsed culture of stigmatization of women and girls who report it, said Amnesty International as it led a protest marking International Women’s Day in the country.
The picket outside the State Duma in Moscow comes the day after sexual harassment allegations against a senior MP were met with mockery in parliament.
The Speaker of the State Duma yesterday told three female journalists to “find another job” after they accused the MP of sexual harassment, including groping them during interviews. Under current Russian law, such behaviour is not a crime.
“Last year Russian lawmakers passed a law to decriminalize some forms of domestic violence; now they are marking International Women’s Day by showing solidarity with an alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“Russia should be addressing the deeply-seated gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence in the country. That means promoting a frank debate on the issue and urgently implementing protective measures; not eroding the existing legal provisions and stigmatizing women who report abuse.”
Over the past two weeks, three Russian journalists – RTVI TV-channel deputy editor Yekatrina Kotrikadze, TV Rain producer Daria Zhuk and BBC Russian service reporter Farida Rustamova – have accused Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, of groping.
The State Duma’s Ethics Commission has not yet responded to the allegations.
The Speaker of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, yesterday commented on the allegations by addressing the journalists: “Are you in danger while working in the Duma? If so, find another job.”
Many of his parliamentary colleagues, including a group of female members of parliament, called the allegations a “provocation”.
“Russian legislation desperately needs to be reformed so that it complies with international human rights standards and effectively combats all forms of sexual violence, including sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, at home and elsewhere. Right now, Russian law completely fails to protect victims of sexual harassment and many victims of sexual assault,” said Denis Krivosheev.
Amnesty International activists in Russia held a small picket outside the State Duma today, having been refused permission by the authorities to hold a larger protest.
Under the state’s rules just one person is permitted to be part of the picket, so Amnesty International supporters and activists took turns holding a single placard while ultra-nationalist counter-protesters shouted abuse nearby.