United Russia seeks amendments to sexual harassment laws

Russia needs a separate article prosecuting sexual harassment in its Administrative code, Members of Russia’s ruling party say, after a newly-established anti-sexist youth movement conducted a series of pickets near the State Duma offices.

The pickets lasted for about a week. During them, young women demonstrated with a poster reading “I want rude people to be fined over phrases like ‘Let’s chill out at my place, bitch’ and ‘Not that I was really up for it’.”

The action was organized by the movement called Rosnakhal, which can be roughly translated as “brazen Russian”. According to the group, millions of Russian women become the subjects of unwanted male attention every day and this situation must be changed.

The activists backed up their effort by a viral video and a flood of tweets that brought the name of the movement to the top-30 of Russian hashtags.

After all this, the members of the United Russia faction said they were ready to take action over the problem. However, MP Maksakova-Igenberts told the press that there were certain complications.

“In order to file a complaint to police one needs a video record or a witness, it is impossible to prove anything only by the victim’s words. Russian laws may be solid, but it is extremely unpleasant when one violates your personal space. In connection with this, all components of this question will be studied and worked through,” the Izvestia daily quoted the parliamentarian as saying.

The party suggests adding the article concerning sexual harassment to the Administrative Code and punishing this offence with a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (about US$13,000).

Young activists suggested the legislators go even further and introduce punishment for any offence “motivated by hatred or hostility to women.” The activists noted that they had calculated the optimal amount of fine and also suggest 50,000 rubles, as this is the exact amount that would scare off the “uneducated, uncivilized and well-off young people who seek to demonstrate their machismo.”

The Union of Young Lawyers of Russia also supported the idea and addressed the chairman of the State Duma, United Russia MP Sergey Naryshkin with a corresponding letter.

Another United Russia MP, Hadjimed Safaraliyev, has said that the anti-harassment measures were an urgent issue.

“We have a lot of sexual harassment cases at work. This is not making our society more attractive. It is very harsh in the West – any attempt of a sexual tone is punished as a criminal offense there. Our laws are not that harsh, but we also need restrictions in this sphere,” he said.

However, a MP from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Sergey Kalashnikov, noted that the initiative should not be taken to the level of absurdity that, in his view, happened in the United States.

“I can tell you of one case from my personal experience. Once I had a picture taken with the US secretary of health. This was a long time ago. And I joked in Russian that I could possibly be accused of harassment as we stood there together. She jumped away from me and I hardly managed to keep this scandal quiet,” the MP told reporters.