There's very few times I ask members to help out in some cause. Knowing the Russian culture, what you read at the bottom is probably the mild version. Unfortunately, beatings, degradings, and other domestic violence is insidious in the Russian culture. A normal life, without beatings is almost an exception, not the rule. Every day 36,000 women in the Russian Federation are beaten by their husbands or partners. Every forty minutes a woman is killed by domestic violence. Official figures say domestic violence is part of the life of every fourth Russian family. Womens organizations in the Russian Federation put forward facts like these to illustrate their concern that violence against the human rights of women is being treated as an internal, domestic, or social problem and not as a human rights violation. The Moscow based "Siostry" is one of the first women's NGOs to highlight the problem. Its Director Maria Mokhova says many women become victims of domestic violence and they get no protection from the state. Many women experience domestic violence for years on end but this rarely becomes public. If a woman is killed, then this cannot go unnoticed and in one way or other enters the statistics. The state however offers no protection against everyday physical, psychological, and financial abuse. What we need is to prevent domestic violence and the state to make it unacceptable. Women want one thing the violence to stop. In the 10-year long war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union lost 10 thousand soldiers. But the fact that every year about 14 thousand women become victims of domestic violence doesnt seem to bother anybody and this is discrimination. Maria Mokhova Very soon, Siostry was followed by other organizations and crisis centres working to eliminate violence and to provide assistance to women survivors of violence. The Association of Crisis Centres Stop violence was registered in 1999, although it started work back in 1994. There are forty-five non-governmental organizations members of the Association Stop Violence all over the Russian federation employing 435 people, staff, and volunteers. Women, victims of domestic violence can seek psychological and legal assistance in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, Murmansk in the northwest and Irkutsk in Siberia. Although these organizations are doing a great job, they still can provide assistance to just a small number of the women who are victims of domestic violence. Sadly, crisis centres still mostly exist in cities predominantly in the European part of the Russian Federation. The Russian government has set up a few crisis centres and government officials are working in co-operation with womens non-governmental organizations but violence against women is yet to be recognized as a serious human rights issue. The main office of the Association of Crisis Centres is a small room in a labyrinth of corridors in a faceless building on a noisy Moscow square. Two women, Natalya Abubikirova and Marina Regentova, speak of their commitment to change the way of thinking so that Russians, authorities, legislators, law enforcement agencies, perpetrators of violence against women and their victims realize that the different forms of harassment within a family are a crime: a violation of the rights of women. They speak of the difficulties they encounter, both financial and administrative, and of the results they have achieved 65 thousand women have asked crisis centres in different cities for help in 2001. Natalya Abubikirova, Executive Director of the Association of Crisis Centres "Stop Violence": Our strategic aim is to push through a law for the prevention of violence against women not from a social aspect but from human rights aspect defending the rights of women. We are working as well to more short-term goals like the recognition of violence against women as a crime. Here we are in a vicious circle as there is no recognition of violence against women as a crime, we cannot have any statistics, and there is not going to be any statistics until we have criteria upon which to collect statistics. This is a realistic goal now, which we think we can achieve. And the second achievable goal that we work to is the training of law enforcement officials those who work with victims of domestic violence, and of judges. Here we have the support of the authorities. Natalya Abubikirova Cartoon by Vladimir Mihailovich Antropov, senior police inspector The Association held a conference with police inspectors in the town of Barnaul in southern Siberia to discuss ways of treating women, victims of domestic violence. Natalya Abubikirova says good cooperation has been built between crisis centres and police in some cities. One such example is the city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals, where the Crisis Centre Yekaterina is situated in another small room in another faceless block of flats. Their telephone rings constantly and consultant Nadezhda Kuzina is advising women where to take their problems. Two volunteers help her. Nadezhda is happy with her work and most of all with the group consultations she holds with victims of domestic violence. The legal consultant of the centre, Yelena Makkey, speaks about the cooperation they have with local police, about the training they provide to police inspectors information on police responsibilities and victims rights. Then she goes on to list the problems the Centre encounters in its work. When facing victims of domestic violence very often police just dont understand that they should treat the cases as a violation of human rights. Very often, they even do not register the complaints. The number of police inspectors willing to work with us is still small. Yelena Makkey Representatives of womens organizations are unanimous in what they want violence against women to be recognized as a violation of their human rights. They are unanimous that the support of international human rights organizations will make their voice better heard by official authorities. Lara Griffith from Amnesty International works on violence against women in the framework of the Campaign for human rights in the Russian Federation. At the start of its campaign on human rights in the Russian Federation Amnesty International placed womens rights firmly in its agenda. Economic difficulties, experienced by a significant number of Russian families in the past decade, have put additional strain on family relations and have led to an upsurge in domestic violence in which women are most often the victims. Men who beat or rape their wives or harass them in other ways are unlikely to face prosecution. One reason for this is that the law does not recognize domestic violence as a distinct crime. Law enforcement officials and society in general tend to view domestic violence not as a crime, but as a private matter. Many women who have suffered such abuses do not seek redress because they fear further involvement with the authorities. That is why we call on the Russian authorities to introduce training for law enforcement officials and judges to recognize and prosecute violence against women, to recognize domestic violence as a critical human rights challenge; to recognize that such abuses of human rights can occur equally in the home, community and by agents of state and to seek to prevent abuses wherever they occur. The main international instrument in this respect is the 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which defined violence against women and appealed for its elimination. This and subsequent international instruments developed a wide body of information on how domestic violence is to be addressed and prevented. Amnesty Internationals members are campaigning on behalf of Russian women by holding demonstrations and vigils, and by organizing lectures with representatives of Russian women's organizations to insist on ending domestic violence. In 2004 we are launching a global violence against women campaign to highlight an issue central to our concerns. Amnesty Internationals members around the world campaign against violence against women in the Russian Federation Sociological studies show that 30 per cent of married women are regularly subjected to physical violence. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of statistics and indeed by the attitude of the agencies of law and order to this problem, for they view such violence not as a crime but as a private matter between the spouses. The Russian Governments report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999. Amnesty Internationals Lara Griffith outlines the main messages of its Violence Against Women (VAW) campaign in the Russian Federation: We are saying to the Federal government take specific steps, and take them this year, to protect women who are victims of violence in the family. We are saying to the government, start to act and show that such loss of life and suffering cannot be tolerated. Many organizations, Russian and international, and indeed the Federal Government have acknowledged the gravity of this problem. We now have a huge amount of knowledge in Russia and internationally on what governments can do, to protect women. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, often with the support of local authorities, are working to protect women and to educate communities. What we need is commitment, action and resources from the Federal Government. With the steps we are asking for we can have a concrete impact in one specific area of state responsibility to act to combat violence against women, that of the response of the police and criminal justice system. Clearly this is only a first step. Legal reform remains a strategic priority. But if what we are asking for is done carefully, through co-operation with the Russian Association of Crisis Centres for Women (RACCW), it can make a start. Our co-operation with NGOs is critical. The RACCW has worked for many years against huge odds to take action the lessons they have learnt are critical to developing a strategic and effective response. And they will continue to work and to develop their capacity, and we hope benefit from the AI campaign. Amnesty International sections have shown huge commitment and interest on this issue. This to me indicates how VAW is going to become more and more central to AIs work we want to make it clear once and for all this is a human rights issue." Many of Amnesty Internationals sections around the world chose International Womens Day to take actions focused on violence against women in the Russian Federation. Sections lobbied the Russian Government to act to protect women from violence in the home. Activists from the RACCW visited several Amnesty International sections in different countries where they talked about their work and highlighted areas for support. That is how Amnesty International Sections around the world showed their solidarity with women, who are victims of domestic violence, in the Russian Federation. Polish members of Amnesty International took part in actions on violence against women in different towns around the country. In Warsaw they took part in a demonstration with other womens NGOs in the centre of the city after which they went to the Russian embassy to protest against womens rights violations. Members in the town of Lodz collected signatures under a petition to the Russian authorities and opened an information stall in the city centre on issues of violence against women in Russia. Amnesty International members in the town of Lublin collected signatures too. They also staged a performance in the city centre concerning womens rights. The Executive Director of the NGO Womens Alliance in the town of Barnaul in southern Siberia, Elena Schitova, toured the USA in March where she took part in discussions presenting the work of the NGO on intervention in issues of violence against women in the Altai and Siberian regions of Russia. The Munich group of Amnesty International widened the theme of their action. They campaigned not only against violence against women but also on the situation of women in detention. Their action drew public and media attention. A press agency took photographs of their action, which were printed by many newspapers, including the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Amnesty International Israels event for International Women's Day drew a huge response. It took place in a Tel Aviv cinema theatre and was attended by more than 300 people. Amnesty International members in Israel informed the public about their activities in the field of womens rights in general, as well as on the Russia campaign. Signatures were collected under a petition to the Russian Authorities regarding Violence against women in the Russian Federation. Natalia Abubikirova, Executive Director of the Russian Association of Crisis Centres for Women Stop the Violence was the guest of Amnesty International in Slovenia AI Natalia Abubikirova, Executive Director of the Russian Association of Crisis Centres for Women Stop the Violence was the guest of Amnesty International in Slovenia. She spoke of the most pressing problems her organization has to deal with in order to get violence against women recognized as a human rights issue. Irina Khaldeeva, President of the Russian Association of Crisis Centres for Women Stop the Violence, visited the Dutch section of Amnesty International. She answered questions about the socio-cultural background and causes for violence against women; about discrimination against women in the Russian society; and about the legal framework within which violence against women can be dealt with. You can write to Putin and other leaders through this link. There's also a link to donations.