Date: Sat, 26 Apr 97 11:31:26 CDT
Sexual Harassment in Russian Workplaces
By Dr. Zoya Khotkina, Moscow Centre for Gender Studies, 25 April 1997
The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is a new and unresearched topic, but it is a real issue in Russia. In the current federal labor market, 70% of school girls, of female university and college students are not able to find work after finishing their studies and must register with the unemployment services. In looking at the job search section of a newspaper you will see, practically everywhere, notices such as "except intimacy" or "intimacy is not offered."
In the federal sector, where women traditionally consisted almost of half the workforce, there is crisis and unemployment. In the difficult development of the private sector, entrance for women is limited here to no more than 25% of the workforce. Given these conditions, women are limited to work in low status job positions of secretaries. Specialists, stated that in 35% of private firms in Moscow, the major step in climbing the employment ladder for women is the bed.
In the Criminal Code, Russian Federation, (CC RF), there exists a law which prohibits utilization of an office position and material dependence for coersion of sexual interactions (Article 118, current CC RF). However, in practice, the courts do not examine these issues. Until 1990, there were annually 20-25 legal cases regarding this article; in the beginning of 1990, there were no more than 2-3 cases; and in 1994 there was not one case. Finally, the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, in spite of its sharpness and widespreading, proves to be a social, invisible, ''transparent problem".
In fact, a low percentage of victims of sexual harassment apply to the courts, and a high percentage of crimes are hidden (analogously to rape). The reason for this is that victims of sexual harassment do not know their rights, they are afraid of publicity and undesirable consequences. They also do not believe in the possibility of receiving legal protection. In addition, due to society's widely-held patriarchal stereotypes, a victim of sexual harassment quite often condemns herself for her employment surroundings and perceives that she with provokes these surroundings. The woman does not see herself as victimized. Not only men, but women and judges are not free from similar stereotypes in a majority of cases.
Thus, on the one side, the social problem of the discrimination of women exists within the labor sphere, founded on sexual coercion and harassment. On the other side, there is the obvious inactivity of legal protective organs and the impunity of this view of the breach of women's human rights.
Dr. Zoya Khotkina
Moscow Centre for Gender Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences