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Domestic Violence Policy vs. Traditional Values: Comparative Study of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

Student: Dilyara Gafurova

Supervisor: Dmitry Dubrovsky

Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences

Educational Programme: Political Analysis and Public Policy (Master)

Year of Graduation: 2020

In February 2017 certain controversial amendments to Russian law were made, decriminalizing particular forms of domestic violence, which were repeatedly justified as defending the institution of family. Such a state of Russian legislature leads to victims of domestic violence being largely ignored, whereas domestic violence as a phenomenon is being further normalized within the societal scope. If one were to assume that traditional value system as the embodiment of Russia’s cultural identity is the reason for domestic violence policy remaining unchanged or reluctant to change, then it could be beneficial to compare domestic violence policy to that of the countries with which Russia shares a long, albeit entangled, common cultural and historical past, Belarus and Ukraine. Following this logic, the impact of traditional values present in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine on their domestic violence policy poses a research problem, whereas why such impact would be different in the countries with similar cultural mindset becomes the research question.. The research goal, then, is to compare the domestic violence policy change in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine against the background of traditional values persisting in the society. The research tasks correspond to the overall structure of the study and are as follows: firstly, to analyze the progress toward change in the domestic violence policy; secondly, to examine attitudes at the leadership level towards said changes and/or towards the current state of domestic violence legislature; thirdly, to assess the state of facilities for domestic violence survivors in each country and compare; and, finally, to gain a more profound experience of NGOs and activists dealing with the issue of domestic violence on the ground and compare. In research, interpretivist approach has been applied; methods-wise, secondary qualitative data collection through analyzing legal documentation, officials’ speeches, official and NGO reports, as well as quantitative content analysis were employed. Additionally, in-depth interviewing and observation were used as qualitative research methods. In terms of the public policy framework implemented, the narrative policy framework (NPF) was applied for the purposes of this study. Upon concluding this research, it has been established that Russia presents with a country-specific approach toward human rights: in traditional values rhetoric employed by the state certain human rights embodying Western values jeopardize Russian security and are to be restricted. Women’s rights and prevention of violence against women appear to be subject to this logic as well. In Belarus such rhetoric can be singularly attributable to the president of the country: this certainly affects the policymaking process and the policy on domestic violence in particular, yet other state actors do not appear to indulge in it to the same extent. It could be argued that the latter is precisely the reason why Belarusian legislation on domestic violence is at a better developed state than the Russian one. Ukraine, on the other hand, has been stressed to be a case apart all throughout this study, - that is not to disregard the trend toward traditional values protection and preservation in the Ukrainian society completely. Therefore, the answer to the research question lies not in the cultural and historical background of the countries which presuppose the persistence of traditional values in the society, but in how traditional values are used in the state rhetoric to explain the approach to a particular policy issue. Another finding of this study is that the case with the domestic violence policy change is in no way stagnant, the discussion between activists and the state is ever-present and the changes are introduced in the form of small, incremental steps, statement true for all the countries. Additionally, empirical analysis has revealed that existing facilities providing aid and shelter to victims of domestic violence in Russia and Belarus demonstrates lack of qualified staff, financial resources, and proper security. Having conducted in-depth interviews with experts on domestic violence from each country, it could be said that there are two key commonalities across the board that are at the core of the challenges posed to those helping the victims on the ground. Firstly, the legislature is imperfect, as it allows courts to pass lenient decisions or dismiss the cases altogether. Secondly, there is a great amount of stigma around the victims of domestic violence and the problem itself. These unwelcome attitudes may be the by-product of the value system present in society.

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