A Cross-Cultural, Comparative Analysis of the Domestic Violence Policies of Nicaragua and Russia

By Della-Giustina, Jo-Ann | Journal of International Women's Studies, May 2009 | Go to article overview

A Cross-Cultural, Comparative Analysis of the Domestic Violence Policies of Nicaragua and Russia


Della-Giustina, Jo-Ann, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This is a cross-cultural comparative analysis of the domestic violence policies of Nicaragua and Russia. While these two countries have striking differences, they both had socialist revolutions that established workers and farmers governments. The Soviet Union was the main economic and political support for Nicaragua following the 1979 Frente Sandinista Para Liberacion Nacional (FSLN--Sandinista Front for National Liberation) revolution.

This article examines the domestic violence policies of post-Soviet Russia and Nicaragua. While both countries have serious domestic violence problems, only Nicaragua is taking an aggressive stance to eradicate the problem. The Russian government barely even acknowledges that there is a problem. My thesis is that the Nicaraguan government has a more progressive approach to ending domestic violence because there is a strong, independent woman's movement in Nicaragua, which is lacking in Russia.

Keywords: domestic violence policy, Nicaragua, Russia

Introduction

Domestic violence is any behavior within an intimate partner (1) relationship that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm to unfairly gain power or to maintain the misuse of power, control, and authority (World Health Organization [WHO], 2002). It affects the lives of women throughout the world regardless of race, ethnicity, class, educational status, or geographic location. It is becoming widely recognized as a serious public health problem with grave implications for the physical and psychological well being of women and children (Ellsberg, Pena. Herrera, Liljestrand, and Winkvist, 2000). Although there is little information about the extent of domestic violence throughout the world, available research indicates that there is no country in which there is an absence of domestic violence (WHO, 2002).

In most countries, 10% to 69% of women have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner at least once in their lives (Ellsberg, Winkvist, Pena, and Stenlund, 2001; WHO, 2002). Research shows that violence against women is exacerbated by the indifference of state officials who fail to seriously investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence (Human Rights Watch [HRW], 2000). In that context, I will compare the domestic violence policies of Nicaragua and Russia, which both have serious domestic violence problems. The Russian government has chosen to ignore its problem while the Nicaraguan government has been seeking ways to eradicate the abuse of women. I suggest that the difference in these approaches is due to a strong independent women's movement in Nicaragua, which is lacking in Russia. An independent women's movement is one that is independent of the government.

While Nicaragua and Russia have striking differences, they also share many similarities. Their differences are the following. Russia is geographically the largest country in the world whereas Nicaragua is tiny. In Russia, there are 142.5 million people; 53.1% are women. There are 5.5 million people in Nicaragua; 51 are women (United Nations [U.N.], 2008). Russia is a developed industrialized economy whereas Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas. Nearly half of its population lives in poverty, with over 15% living in extreme poverty (The World Bank, 2006).

Notwithstanding these differences, there are many similarities between the two countries. Both had socialist revolutions led by Marxist-Leninist parties who aimed to establish socialist societies. In 1917, the Bolshevik Party overthrew the czar, and the Frente Sandinista Para Liberacion Nacional (FSLN--Sandinista Front for National Liberation) overthrew the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in 1979. Although neither country ever met its goal of a socialist society, workers and farmers governments were established in both countries. Because of those similarities, the Soviet Union became Nicaragua's main advisor and supporter after the FSLN revolution. …

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