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Russia: plans for International Women's Day

International Women’s Day – 8th March in Russia

Preparations made by the socialist feminist platform “SotsFem Alternativa” (SFA), supported by the Sotsialisticheskaya Alternativa (SA), the Russian Section of International Socialist Alternative, are well under way.

Aleksandra Alekseeva of SotsFem Alternativa

There are many issues important to women in Russia.

March 8th – a day for flowers and chocolates

Since Soviet times, the original meaning of 8th March has been distorted because of the political drive to strengthen the patriarchy and consolidate the role of women as ‘mothers’ and ‘wives’, who serve their families, but at the same time have to work in employment no less than men. For this reason, March 8th in Russia today is a holiday, when men present women with flowers and chocolates, praising their “femininity”, “beauty” and “weakness”. We are appealing to women to return March 8th its original meaning, first defined by Сlara Zetkin as the day when women organize rallies and marches, to attract public attention to their problems.

Nothing is done to prevent domestic violence

Despite the explosion of domestic violence cases and the high-profile case of the Khachaturian sisters, who have not yet been fully acquitted, the state does nothing to alleviate conditions, which cause women to suffer domestic violence. Police do not respond and do not come to calls for help, crisis centers or shelters for domestic violence victims exist only as NGOs, and the law on domestic violence still has not been adopted, despite the fact that it has been ‘under consideration’ in the State Duma for 7 years up to 2019.

Women still get lower salaries

Russian women still receive 27% less pay than their male counterparts. As a result, women are left dependent on families or partners, even if, as a result, they are left in danger. A woman receiving a low salary cannot afford to leave the rapist or abuser so has to put up with violence due to poverty.

Harassment in universities and workplaces still takes place

In 2018 in Russia, a scandal around the State Duma deputy Slutsky, who harassed at least three female journalists whilst they were performing their editorial assignments broke out. Slutsky was not punished in any way, he still represents Russia in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and similar stories about sleazy and powerful men harassing subordinate women or students occur every day.

Women's strike on 6th March

On the last working day before March 8th, which is a holiday in Russia, SFA and SA are calling on everyone to participate in an hour-long women's strike – to stop working for 1 hour, during which they can talk to colleagues about women's problems, stand in single-person pickets, holding a placard or distributing flyers. As part of the preparation for this, we are out almost daily leafleting the large universities and workplaces in Moscow, talking to people, convincing them to join the strike.

Our strike is already supported by the Student union “Community”, the Union of journalists and media workers, as well as other left groups such as the Russian Socialist Movement (RSM).

We are calling for:

· a new law on domestic violence to replace that decriminalizing it;

· for every district to have a proper Crisis centre, financed by the state;

· for a fight against harassment at work, university and schools;

· for equal and decent wages and grants! Salaries should be at least 300 rubles an hour, grants at least 15,000 rubles a month.

8th March - rally

On March 8th, we would like to hold a mass rally or march in city centre, but given the conditions in which political activists have to work in Russia, it is unlikely that the authorities will allow us to gather in large numbers on this "festive, bright holiday." It is therefore most likely, that we will hold a series of single-person pickets in the city centre, so that tourists and passers-by can see the faces and hear the voices of those women who are not afraid to speak out about their problems and demands.

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