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Career or hearth and home - Russian women's dilemma

March 06, 2015, 18:01 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Sergey Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, 6 March. /TASS/. Ahead of March 8 International Women’s Day, which has long lost its social connotation in Russia, turning simply into a women’s holiday, media like portraying an average Russian woman. Their portrait looks contradictory, though quite attractive in a way. Women need to be protected as they are facing a lot of problems, experts say, suggesting that a special post should be created for that reason.

According to Rosstat Federal State Statistics Service, women in Russia outnumber men by almost 11 million. Average life span for Russian men is only 65.5 years, while women enjoy a longer term of 76.5 years.

Women’s thirst for knowledge is to be envied, as they account for 56% of higher school students. They are also in the majority among semi-skilled and highly skilled specialists. Besides, Russia is top on the list as to the number of female managers. Women are at the head of about 30% of all medium-sized business entities and manage about 10% of big business companies. Women also prevail among public officers with a share of 70%. Men are in the minority of one fifth at prosecutors' offices and judicial agencies. At the same time, there are only 16% of female parliamentarians in Russia, and they are rarely seen in top echelons of state power.

As it is across the globe, Russian women earn less than men, their salaries being about 33% lower on the average. At the same time, experts say cases of gender discrimination in the workplace are not many. It is another matter that household problems make most Russian women abandon a career for the sake of the family.

"Our fellow countrywomen practically work two full shifts, first in the workplace and then at home. Besides, we can increasingly often see incomplete families, and this mainly implies a child plus a single mother," Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily cites director for international research at VTsIOM Public Opinion Research Center Olga Kamenchuk as saying.

Women’s share has "dark sides" such as household violence, abortions, many of them among teens, as well as abandonment of infants. Statistical data says 14,000 women die yearly by the hand of husbands or partners, and another 38,000 are battered on a daily basis. At the present moment, there are about 50 abortions per 100 childbirths, which, however, is five times better than in the record worst year of 1992.

In view of the situation, Sergey Markov from the Public Chamber’s Commission for Labour Relations, Social Policy and Quality of Life, initiated a position of Women’s Ombudsperson at the Russian presidency.

Markov told TASS that an appeal to the president was under way, while the initiative, which he said was welcomed in society, was discussed at different public organizations to avoid any overlapping between the position of Women’s Ombudsperson and other positions. At the present time, Russia has ombudsmen for human rights, for children, entrepreneurs and students.

According to Markov, a women’s ombudsperson needs first of all to engage in problems of household violence. Up to 90% of victims don’t go to the police, fearing revenge from the attacker or that the children will remain fatherless in case of his arrest.

Rapes could be one more problem for the ombudsman to focus on, Markov said. "Most rapist victims don’t report to the police while police themselves are quite reluctant to institute criminal proceedings," he added.

Bringing down the numbers of abortions and abandoned children is another task the ombudsperson could deal with, he said. "Young girls abandoned by their partner find themselves in a difficult situation, they have nowhere to turn to, and 90% of children find themselves in orphanages being no orphans," Markov said.

"There is one more problem that is often forgotten — sexual harassment at work. Nobody deals with it, while these cases run into thousands," he added.

The women’s ombudsperson will also have to deal with women’s rights and gender discrimination. According to Markov, current economic hardships make this problem even more pressing. As an example of discrimination, Markov cited the Labour Ministry’s initiative to calculate the investment part of the state pension on the grounds of gender identity (in which case the investment part of the pension would be 20% bigger for men) as well as biased attitudes to women applying for a job.


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