Global Human Rights Defence

The Most Dangerous Place For Russian Women
Fist of a man near a helpless anonymous woman. Source: Anete Lusina/Pexels, 2020

Author: Kristina Yildiz

Department: Women’s Rights Team

While growing up, the girls in Russia get to hear many things that can affect their self-positioning and relationship with men. For example, it is habitual to hear that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, even from the male members of their own families. When a girl comes home crying because a boy at school was pulling her pigtails or maybe even slapped her, she is likely to hear: “If he beats you, it means he loves you”. Thus, in addition to the commonly known five languages of love,[1] There is one more love language in Russia – ‘the language of violence’.

Based on a recent study of 2021 by the Russian Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Organisations, from 2011-2019, more than 12000 women died because of  domestic violence. Around 9,868 women (81 percent of the total number) were killed by their partners (Russian Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Organisations, 2021). The research commissioned by the Russian State Duma also showed that psychological, economic and physical violence are all present at the same time (TASS, 2019).

Russian society can be characterised by patriarchal attitudes and strong traditional values. Women are expected to obey their husbands and endure violence. According to a 2020 study by the NAFI Research Centre, the majority (71 percent) of Russians believe that when a woman becomes a good wife and mother, she fulfils her highest potential (Analytical Center NAFI, 2020). Another survey revealed that being a good homemaker is the most desirable quality in a woman for men (Levinson, 2022).

The position of the government only reinforces these sentiments. At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, president Vladimir Putin declared Russia’s “independent path in foreign policy” by contrasting the traditional values of Russia with the liberal values of the West. It is clear that with the rejection of liberal values came a rejection of fundamental human rights and especially the rights of women (Usanova, 2020). A year later, Putin announced 2008 as the “Year of the Family” and June 8 was declared as the “Day of Family, Love, and Fidelity”. This new national holiday reinforced the idea of men, as the heads of their families who are supposed to provide for and take care of them (Rhodin, 2008). Considering the low birth rate in Russia, the government is strongly encouraging women to have second or third child by providing maternity leave, maternity capital and emphasising their duty as child-bearers to the nation (Johnson & Saarinen, 2013).

Unfortunately, the police are often unable or unwilling to help the victims of domestic violence because the conflict is considered a “family business”. As a result, many women do not even report numerous instances of domestic violence to the police. With this, victim-blaming is very commonly used by the police and even by the courts. Instead of helping the women, they might suggest reconciling with their abusers and not provoking them anymore (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Moreover, there are cases when the police officers were the perpetrators themselves. In 2018, police officer Sergei Gusyatnikov stabbed his wife Elena more than 50 times. Another victim, Ekaterina Telkina, repeatedly filed statements about the beatings. When her husband was finally taken to the police station, he was quickly released by the district police officer, returned home and killed his wife (Novaya Gazeta, 2021).

Even if we assume that there is a policeman who wants to help, the problem is he would not be able to do so. This is because of the absence of legal grounds and definition of domestic violence. Consequently, there are no protective measures such as compulsory anger management training or restraining orders. Instead of making steps toward protecting      women from domestic violence, Russia moved in the opposite direction and decriminalised first battery among family or household members (Walker, 2017). Therefore, the law does not distinguish domestic violence from any other form of violence.

The most applied Articles to domestic violence cases are Article 6.1.1 of the Code of Administrative offences and Article 116.1 and Article 115 under the Criminal Code. Article 6.1.1 is applied in the first instances of battery when no serious and lasting harm is caused. The penalties under this Article range from 5,000 to 30,000 rubles (about US$60 to $360), up to 120 hours of community service, or up to 15 days of jail (The State Duma, 2001). Article 116.1 is applied for a second battery offence if it is committed within a year, and the punishment includes a fine of up to 40,000 rubles (about $480) or imprisonment for up to three months or up to six months of corrective labour, or up to 240 hours of community service. Article 115 is used only in some cases when the harm caused could be described as “light” or insignificant. Penalties under this Article may range from up to a 40,000-ruble fine (about $480) to up to four months in jail (The State Duma, 1996).

Russia is a party to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW). However, considering that in 2018 about 100 Russian citizens submitted their complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) about the lack of protection from domestic violence, it can be confirmed that the authorities have failed to protect the victims (Usanova, 2020).

By decriminalising domestic violence, the politicians ignored fundamental differences between domestic violence and violence among strangers. In the case of domestic violence, victims often live with their abusers and cannot easily leave them for a variety of reasons. It is also common for perpetrators to repeat their offences and the physical abuse goes together with psychological, verbal and emotional abuse (Human Rights Watch, 2018).

In 2019, there was another attempt to pass a law against domestic violence. However, it was criticised and opposed by various groups. For example, in the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is said that the draft has an anti-family orientation and reduces the rights and freedoms of those who have chosen a familial way of life (Patriarchal Commission, 2019). The government also commented on the draft and said, “this is an issue, but it is not on the Presidential Administration’s agenda” (Yurtaev, 2020).

The government of Russia has ignored more than forty legislative initiatives to protect victims of domestic violence (Rights CoLab, 2021). The consequences of this can be seen in the research commissioned by the Russian State Duma, which showed that 91 percent of women in the country become the victims of spousal violence (TASS, 2019). If there were a relevant law in place, thousands of women would not have been killed by their boyfriends, husbands and other male members of the household. It can be said without any doubt that the most dangerous place for a Russian woman is her home.


Analytical Centre NAFI. (2020). Stereotypes about Women and Their Consequences. On the Path to Equal Opportunities in the Digital Economy — NAFI. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Johnson, J. E., & Saarinen, A. (2013). Twenty-First-Century Feminisms under Repression: Gender Regime Change and the Women’s Crisis Centre Movement in Russia. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(3), 543–567. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Human Rights Watch. (2018). “I Could Kill You and No One Would Stop Me”. Weak State Response to Domestic Violence in Russia. Retrieved April 16, 2022 from

Levinson, A. (2022, April 16). Who’s to Blame for Gender Stereotypes in Russia? The Moscow Times. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Novaya Gazeta. (2021, August 18). Russia, Explained. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Patriarchal Commission. (2019). Заявление Патриаршей комиссии по вопросам семьи, защиты материнства и детства в связи с обсуждением проекта Федерального закона «О профилактике семейно-бытового насилия в Российской Федерации». Патриаршая Комиссия. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from

Rhodin, S. (2008). A Holiday From Russia With Love. The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Rights CoLab. (2021, September 23). – No To Violence. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from

Russian Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Organisations. (2021). ‘Алгоритм Света’ by Women Consortium | Readymag. Алгоритм Света. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from

TASS. (2019). Исследование: около 75% пострадавших от насилия в семье – женщины. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

The State Duma. (1996). Уголовный кодекс Российской Федерации. Retrieved April 17, 2022, from

The State Duma. (2001). Кодекс Российской Федерации об административных правонарушениях. Retrieved April 17, 2022, from

Usanova, O. (2020). Russia’s “Traditional Values” and Domestic Violence. Wilson Centre. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Walker, S. (2017, November 28). Putin approves legal change that decriminalises some domestic violence. The Guardian. Retrieved April 17, 2022, from

Yurtaev, A. (2020). Inside the fight over Russia’s domestic violence law. openDemocracy. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from

[1] According to Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, the languages are: acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation.



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
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She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

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Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

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Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.