​Festival tries to reclaim Russian feminism – but is it radical enough? | World news

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    After years of operating in the shadows, Russia’s women’s rights activists are pushing back against “traditional values”, and a government that has recently decriminalised some forms of domestic violence.

    Last week hundreds of activists marched on city streets to demand equality on International Women’s Day and more than 1,000 attended Fem Fest in Moscow, the first feminist festival of its kind in Russia.

    Widely perceived as a western concept, feminism has never had much support in Russia’s patriarchal society – despite the fact that the Soviets were some of the first to give women the vote and legalise abortion. Today, feminists are vilified on social media and in the state-run Russian press.

    Politicians openly accuse activists of exaggerating existing problems for “murky goals”, and the media have branded feminism an aggressive movement imposing bizarre lifestyle demands on women.

    As a result, says Irina Izotova, curator of Fem Fest, “most women in Russia distance themselves from feminism. For them, feminists are those who stand on the street with signs, protesting.”

    With the headline-grabbing protest tactics of Pussy Riot and the Ukrainian group Femen now focusing their efforts elsewhere – Pussy Riot moved on to advocating for political prisoners and Femen is mostly active in Europe – speakers at the festival focused on the day-to-day issues Russian women face.

    Talks addressed current problems with domestic violence, for which the punishment has just been downgraded despite 35,899 cases being reported in 2015; the disturbing trend of rape victims being blamed for provoking their attackers; and the fact that police dismiss four out of…

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