Traditional values v women’s rights

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2014 National Women's Conference
18 October 2013

Conference recalls the 2012 Women’s conference resolution “Our tradition is equality and human rights”, which expressed concern that the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council had adopted a Russian resolution linking human rights to ‘traditional values’. It recognised that Russia was attempting to block progress on women’s rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in the UN, as part of a political agenda using a conservative view of ‘tradition’ to try to restrict human rights.

Conference notes that recent comments made by Russian president Vladimir Putin have made this more explicit. Putin said Russia should avoid the example of European countries that were ‘going away from their roots’, by legalising same sex marriage and excessive ‘political correctness’. He called on Russians to strengthen a new national identity based on ‘conservative and traditional values’ such as those of the Orthodox Church. There has been a growth in similar rhetoric targeting women and LGBT people in some other countries including the Ukraine and Georgia.

Conference further notes that Putin’s government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society. A series of discriminatory laws significantly restrict civil society organisations and threatens their existence, such as the treason, foreign agents, Dima Yakovlev, and anti-propaganda laws.

The foreign agents law requires organizations whose activities are deemed ‘political’ who receive any funding from foreign sources to register as ‘foreign agents’. In just 4 months over 1,000 organisations were subjected to ‘inspections’, 56 identified as ‘agents’, including a women’s studies centre, and proceedings instituted against 22.

The anti-propaganda law bans propaganda of ‘non traditional sexual relations towards minors’, but is so widely drawn that any statements and actions that support lesbian or bisexual women’s equality, or displays of affection between women, can be grounds for arrest. Other legislative initiatives include banning adoption of children from Russia by foreign same-sex couples, and a proposal to take children adopted in Russia away from their parents if they are in a same-sex relationship.

Xenophobia and discrimination are encouraged by the authorities, with women’s rights and human rights defenders portrayed as enemies of Russia and its traditional values. One example, is the treatment of the women of the punk band Pussy Riot, currently serving two-year sentences for ‘hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred’ for performing a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral, highlighted by Amnesty International.

While ethnic, racial and religious minorities have long been targets of neo-Nazi and ultra nationalist groups, the new laws and accompanying public rhetoric has led to a dramatic spiral of violence and discrimination against minority groups. LGBT people are increasingly targeted and conference welcomes the ILGA-Europe’s informative campaign, led by Russian LGBT groups, to highlight developments.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee, working with the National Executive Council and other bodies as appropriate, to:

1)Raise the deteriorating human rights situation, systematic violence targeting women and minorities and clampdown on civil society in Russia in all appropriate forums;

2)Raise awareness of the attempts to promote the ‘traditional values’ agenda in the UN and the need to support the universality of human rights with women’s organisations and women’s structures within trade union bodies;

3)Encourage branch and regional women’s groups to mark international women’s day by supporting Amnesty International and ILGA-Europe campaigns to promote women’s rights and human rights against ‘traditional values’ propaganda.