Public must pressure Russian politicians for progressive legislation to protect victims of sexual harassment

Several Russian journalists have accused Russian State Duma lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment, according to The New York Times. The Russian government has denied these accusations, and such a response is appalling. 

Russia must demand more from its legislators in order to significantly reform the country’s sexual harassment laws. Additionally, it is imperative that Americans speak out against this type of behavior in order to aid those suffering from sexual harassment abroad. 

The Duma’s ethics commission pardoned Slutsky, stating that it could not find that Slutsky violated any conduct policies, according to The New York Times. Such a conclusion comes in part because Russia has failed to produce legislation that defines sexual harassment, The Moscow Times reports. This response clearly contradicts Russia’s past statements, as at United Nations conventions Russia has acknowledged that sexual harassment is unacceptable, according to The Moscow Times

Moreover, after Slutsky’s case, several lawmakers, including Slutsky and the speaker of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, brushed off journalists’ accusations as an anti-Russian campaign strategically timed close to the Russian presidential election, The New York Times reports. After the Duma’s investigation of Slutsky, Chairman of the Ethics Commission Otari Arshba similarly “hinted that the journalists seemed to have plotted together, and that some waited too long after the incident—several years—before coming forward,” according to The New York Times

It is clear that the Russian government does not consider sexual harassment to be an issue based on its actions and the lack of sufficient reform. 

With Slutsky’s acquittal, Russia has also demonstrated that it does not plan to hold public officials accountable for their inappropriate behavior, which is simply atrocious. Therefore, in order to enact change, Russian citizens and Americans must support initiatives advocating for reform in sexual harassment laws.  

Without legislation that outlines consequences for sexual harassment, individuals like Slutsky will continue to get away with this abhorrent type of behavior. If Russian lawmakers neglect to pass such measures, then everyday citizens need to take matters into their own hands. Doing so would allow there to be repercussions for such cases. 

There have, however, been some positive initiatives developing following this incident that may result in some change with public support. 

Several Russian media organizations said they would decrease their coverage of the Russian State Duma or Slutsky specifically, according to The New York Times. This statement is incredibly progressive amidst Russia’s patriarchal society.

Approximately 24 media outlets have decided to stop interviewing Slutsky, according to The New York Times. Furthermore, the radio station Ekho Moskvy, as well as other media, have decided to remove journalists from the Duma entirely, The New York Times continues. 

Editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy Aleksei Venediktov said the radio station felt that this course of action was necessary because it “considers the State Duma an unsafe work location for journalists of both sexes,” The New York Times reports. It is incredible to see the Russian media hold the government accountable, as it has perpetuated the state’s propaganda in the past. 

Additionally, lawmaker Oksana Pushkina has vowed to put forth a bill pertaining to gender equality. Pushkina said in the bill “everything, including the issue of harassment, will be clearly spelled out,” according to The Moscow Times. This piece of legislation was first proposed in 2003 and has not moved from the committee stage, The Moscow Times continues.

The efforts of Russian media outlets and Pushkina are remarkable; however, without worldwide public support, the government may not feel pressured to approve laws concerned with sexual harassment. 

For this reason, Russians and Americans must advocate for reform. It is our duty as citizens to protect individuals when their human rights are violated, no matter which nation they are from. Historically, one can see through the “#MeToo” movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Civil Rights movement that masses have power. 

Russia has the opportunity to pass important sexual harassment legislation. If the public demands change, change will come.