A new sexual harassment scandal is boiling up, this time in Russia. A few days ago Ekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy editor-in-chief of RTVI, along with other women journalists came forward about alleged cases of sexual harassment from a prominent Russian politician, Leonid Slutsky. Kotrikadze was the first woman to speak up about sexual harassment that she experienced at Slutsky’s office seven years ago. After that, more women have anonymously shared similar experiences of their own.

Is this the result of a ripple created by the global #metoo movement, and would Russian women be able to benefit from it?

The societal and political backlash from this case don’t promise too much hope. From Slutsky himself, who dismissed the accusation and labeled it a “political stunt” that deliberately targeted him and the party right before the elections this March, to the members of the Women’s club at the State Duma who stood up for Slutsky and supported his view of a politicized action. Kotrikadze and her counterparts – all women journalists – are now under the risk of being barred from the State Duma for “violating the code of ethics”, but essentially for speaking up against a powerful man.

“The human life behind a story is rarely seen or taken into account, especially when it is a story of a woman.”

Personally, the most striking part of this development is how quickly the discussion switched from the topic of sexual harassment to politics and the “wider context”. Often times in Russia, whenever a case of injustice gets public, the personal aspect of it gets lost in the bigger story of institutions, underlying reasons, consequences, etc. The human life behind a story is rarely seen or taken into account, especially when it is a story of a woman.

In the end, this story is bigger than just a case, and it has the power to be political if it propels anti-harassment regulations. However, the person in the middle of it is still a human being, and we shouldn’t forget that. Despite the noise, nothing should make the personal account of Kotrikadze’s harassment less valid. A brave woman who found the courage to speak up in a society that is known for female victim blaming, she deserves to be heard, supported and understood. Whether or not #metoo and the 2016 online flashmob #notafraidtospeak (#янебоюсьсказать) have led to this story being heard, they have certainly contributed to preparing the Russian society to at least start a serious, thoughtful conversation about sexual harassment and violence against women.

#empowerglobalwomen #women #metoo #sexualharassment #russia

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