Nikolai Kavkazsky: Condemnation for one’s sexuality [Radio Svoboda]

13 March 2017

By Nikolai Kavkazsky, human rights activist, politician and former defendant in the «Bolotnaya Square case»

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda]

In Russia the phrases “Victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming” are almost unknown, but they should be known, since the phenomenon that they represent is widespread in our country.

“Slut-shaming” is the condemnation of a woman for her sexuality. In fact, it represents a double standard. If a man has an active sex life, almost no one condemns him, but, for her sexuality, a woman can be subject to insults, disgrace and hate. It is normal to be sexual and to have sex by mutual consent. And no one should be condemned for it.

With regard to “victim-blaming”, my university teachers taught me about victimization, that is, the capacity of somebody to become the victim of a crime. From the standpoint of the proponents of this concept, if somebody takes out an expensive smartphone late at night on public transport, or if a woman in a mini-skirt goes to an industrial zone, then these people are provoking someone to commit crimes against them. In actual fact, however, the assumption that the offence may result from the behaviour of the victim is simply a means of accusing the victim, since the guilt of the offender is transferred to the victim. This situation is illustrated very well by Ivan Krylov’s fable «The Wolf and the Lamb»

The wolf tried to justify its violence towards lamb, but then admitted: «You’re to blame too because you want me to eat you.» In those countries where women are forced to wear the burqa (so that they will not appear provocative), their rights are tenfold more violated!

The public hounding of rape victims, especially of women, creates a social prejudice against them. Girls and women see the harassment and obstruction to which these victims of violence are subjected and how they are blamed by the slanders of «honest» people. Because of these underlying attitudes, they are simply afraid to inform the police when and if, God forbid, they are raped. This plays into the hands of criminals, who receive a virtual carte blanche for sexual violence.

I believe that the tradition of failing to punish rapists is closely associated with the criminal subculture, because, according to the “law of the underworld” a person who is raped descends into the lowest caste of the prison hierarchy. Criminal subculture is steeped in sexism. In addition, in accordance with criminal traditions, a person against whom the crime was committed and who appealed to the police for protection of their rights, was contemptuously called a «weakling” [terpiloi]. This word is often used by the police, who instead of fighting crime, take bribes and beat up dissidents.

“Victim-blaming”, like “slut-shaming”, is heaving with double standards. Even women often say: «Why did you go out with men for a drink? Why were you provocatively dressed? You were asking to get raped!” In the future, such words will be considered to be roughly the same as if today someone condemned an African-American who was beaten up by the Ku Klux Klan, saying, “He only has himself to blame,” because, perhaps, in the unhappy days of the past, he sat down on a bench designated “for whites only «. Blame racism and apartheid for violence, rather than the «defiant » behavior of people whose skin is a dark colour. On the contrary, racism and apartheid were crushed when black people began to rise up against such bans and defiantly violate them!

All sorts of bigots say: «Why didn’t she resist?» As if to be beaten or even killed in addition to being raped is somehow better than just being raped?! Sadly, in Russia we have seen a shift of the criminal subculture not only into society as a whole but also into the activist community and opposition movement. What alternative can we represent if we are stricken with the evils of the existing system, living not by law and justice, but by the “law of the underworld”? Our criminal, sexist and chauvinistic system must be broken, and not supported. And delete the phrases and words «only herself to blame”, ”whore», “slut”,»bitch», and «tart» from your lexicon!

Translated by Graham Jones