Russia’s mixed record on women’s rights

Russia has a highly developed social protective legislature, but it does not work as well as it should

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova
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According to the legacy inherited from the Soviet Union, in theory women in Russia have the same rights as men in all spheres, but the reality is somewhat different. Women are free to chose their way of life, whether to have a career or a family, or both. However, the situation is not as it was in the Soviet Union, where the free and strong woman was a source of pride.

Almost half of the working-age population is female. Some sectors are dominated by women, such as medicine, education, accounting and finance. Other sectors are dominated by men, primarily politics and high-level administration. It is very hard for women to make a career in these fields. The problems they face range from discrimination to harassment.

Employers are not interested in women because of the requirement for a three-year paid maternity leave

Maria Dubovikova

Russia has a highly developed social protective legislature, but it does not work as well as it should. For example, employers are not interested in women because of the requirement for a three-year paid maternity leave.

Sometimes women signing a contract have to give guarantees that they will not become pregnant, and in case of pregnancy, they do not get maternity benefits, they have to work during this three-year period, and sometimes they lose their job.

Control and punishment

The mechanisms of control and punishment of such employers are ineffective because women do not know their rights or are afraid of losing their jobs. Furthermore, women are paid less than men.

Another huge problem is domestic violence. According to official data, more than 14,000 women are killed by family members every year, and more than 36,000 are beaten daily by their husbands or partners.

However, this does not reflect the true scale of the problem, as women do not turn to the authorities out of fear for their future, their children, or the reaction of their partner or husband, so they suffer in silence.

These problems are common in most societies. The difference in women’s status depends on factors such as the mentality and historical traditions of a society. Russia is a crossroad between Europe and Asia, so it has eastern traits in its mentality and philosophy. Russia is conservative with a strong patriarchal core, so women are more inclined to accept the rules than to fight for their rights and equality.

However, society is modernizing and attitudes toward women changing. Hopefully, in time, the rights and interests of women will be fully respected, and the strong and free woman will once again be a source of pride. The fact that Russia is 25th among countries with the most female bosses (39 percent of managers are women) provides further hope.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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