Gender Equality in the Russian Federation

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Flag of Russia
Population (in Mil.) 143.20
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 2,016.11
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.86
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.19047619
Fertility Rate 1.42
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.62
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 75.9
Women in Parliament (in %) 13.6
Human Development Index 55/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 55/186
Gender Equity Index 31/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 66/128
Global Gender Gap Index 61/68
More information on variables


Social Institutions

The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures gender-based discrimination in social norms, practices and laws across 160 countries. The SIGI comprises country profiles, a classification of countries and a database; it serves as a research, policy and advocacy tool for the development community and policy makers.

The SIGI covers five dimensions of discriminatory social institutions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s lives: discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity, son bias, restricted resources and assets, and restricted civil liberties. The SIGI’s variables quantify discriminatory social institutions such as unequal inheritance rights, early marriage, violence against women, and unequal land and property rights.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, Russian Federation was not classified in the SIGI due to lack of full dataset. It has lower discrimination in restricted access to resources and assets and higher discrimination in restricted civil liberties. Read the full country profile and access the data here:


Russia went through major improvements in the health sector in the recent years, but there are still various areas that need significant reforms, especially in the rural areas. The average life expectancy  at birth is 68 years for both sexes; females have a higher life expectancy average rate with 74 years, whereas men can expect an average of 62 years. Thus, there are gender differences in life expectancy; men in Russia have a slightly lower life expectancy compared to the global average of 66 years for men and 71 years for women. Moscow is the leading city with 72, 8 average years of life expectancy. The adult mortality rate (per 1000 adults between 15-59 years) remains high with 269 in contrast to the global average of 176. The maternal mortality ratio is measured with 39 deaths per 100000 live births, which is comparably low when considering the global average of 260 deaths. The European regions show a lower mortality ratio, since the climate and environment are considered to be more favorable and due to the dense population in the cities one can receive better medical care. However, medical care is not enough to resolve the problem; for example, although Moscow is a highly developed city, maternal mortality remains to be high. This is due to the overall decrease in the well-being of women, because of increasing pollution, psychological problems and stress. The under-5 mortality rate has decreased significantly from 1990 till today, and is stated as 12 deaths per 1000 live births, which includes both sexes and is below the global average of 60 deaths. Prevalence of HIV occurs at 10 cases per 1000 adults aged from 15-49 years, which is higher than the average of 8 cases globally. Tobacco smoking is certainly higher among men with 70.1% of 15+ year’s olds being a regular smoker and 27, 7% of women smoking regularly. 18.4% of the male adult 20+ population and 29.8% of females are considered to suffer from obesity[1].


Education in Russia is compulsory for children that are between 6 and 15 years. Basic general education lasts for 9 years and those that want to continue can do so at High School to receive secondary general education. Students can also enter vocational schooling, or non-university higher education that is referred to as PTU (Professional'noe technicheskoe uchiliche), which offer 1/2 till 2 years of professional education. There is also the option of attending a Professional Litsei that offers joint professional and secondary education for 3- 4 years. If 12 years of education are completed, a pupil leaves his full education at the age of 18 and is awarded with the Certificate of Full Secondary General Education (Attestat o Srednem Obchem Obrasovanii). In 2009, the Certificate of Basic General Education has been obtained by 1, 2 million students, and 0, 8 million students obtained the Certificate of Full Secondary Education. Graduates that received the latter from the secondary school, may apply for entrance to a higher educational institution, those can be public and non-public institutions that lead to a Bachelor Degree (4 years), Master (5-6 years) and Ph.D.

Throughout the last 10 years, Russia's education system has faced several major changes due to social and economic reforms. The number of students in higher educational establishments rose by almost 40%, mainly due to the increase in female students. Between 1992- 2000, the number of male students rose by 25%, and females registered rose by 50%. At the moment, there are more women enrolled into higher education than men. However, it is difficult to state whether introducing the charge of fees for higher education has affected female students more than male, since there are no government statistics that include a gender breakdown in this field. Nevertheless, the allocation of the federal budget money has been criticized for becoming increasingly gender asymmetric in concern with the traditional male professions to stay free of charge[2].


  1. WHO
  2. Russian Federal Statistics

Social Institutions

After a decade of post-Soviet economic and political turmoil, Russia has managed to overcome the economic collapse of 1998 using its vast natural resources, including oil and gas. Russia is the largest country on earth in terms of surface area, despite the fact that large portions of land are very sparsely populated.[1] Although Russia has managed to disable a Chechen rebel movement, violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.[2] Russia is classed by the World Bank as an upper middle income country.[3]

Despite a tumultuous 20th century history Russia made great strides towards gender equality under the Soviet system, patriarchal traditions in several regions were rejected and women received equal access to education and salaried employment. As a result of the widespread disruptions in the economy caused by the shift away from Communism, women have experienced a relative decline in their social and economic status; this may also indicate that patriarchal traditions are reasserting themselves.[4] Significant problems exist with respect to violence against women. Women still earn lower salaries than men, are more often unemployed, and remain responsible for the bulk of family obligations. These factors also make it difficult for women to rise in management positions.[5] However, according to the 2002 census, women ran about 30% of medium-sized businesses and 10% of big businesses in Russia, and a 2009 study found that the number of women taking managerial positions increased from 30 to 40% since the onset of the economic crisis.[6]

Article 19 of the Russian Constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens and specifically upholds the principle of equality between men and women.[7] Russia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, and the Optional Protocol on violence against women in 2004.[8]

The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) score in 2011 is 0.755, placing it in 66th place out of a total of 187 countries.[9] The Gender Inequality Index is 0.338, placing it in 59th place out of 146 countries.[10] Russia’s 2011 Global Gender Gap Index ranking is 0.7037, placing it in 43rd place (out of 135 countries).[11]

Discriminatory Family Code

The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women, but local authorities can authorise marriage from the age of 16 years – and even earlier in some regions – if it is considered to be justified.[12] The United Nations reports that as of 2002, the most recent years for which data is available, 7.7% of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed.[13] By law, marriage requires the free consent of both spouses, but does not need to be authorised by the bride’s family.[14] Still, a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that 26% of respondents still felt that a woman should consult her family on her choice of spouse.[15]

Polygamy is prohibited in Russia,[16] but the practice remains common within many Muslim communities, particularly in the Caucasus region. Only the marriage to the first wife is recorded; subsequent wives are not considered to be legally married.[17]

The Russian Family Code provides for shared parental authority; mothers and fathers have equal rights and responsibilities within the family.[18] In the event of divorce, the vast majority of cases see custody awarded to the mother. If a father fails to pay child support, a court can order it to be deducted directly from his salary.[19]

Russian women and men have the same legal inheritance rights.[20]

Restricted Physical Integrity

There is no specific legislation to address violence against women: it is included within general legislation covering assault and other violent acts, classifications that are outside the jurisdiction of the Office of the Prosecutor and that require the victim to prosecute their cases ‘privately’.[21] In Russia, rape is punishable by three to six years in prison, with sentences increasing to 8 to 20 years if the victim is a minor under the age of 14 or if she dies.[22] Spousal rape is not specifically criminalised. There is no specific legislation in Russia to penalise domestic violence.[23]

Observers believe that violence against women is on the rise, and that authorities have not taken sufficient action to address the issue.[24]

Rape victims must have their complaints recorded by the police, from whom they must obtain authorisation to be examined by a doctor. In many cases, police often obstruct complaints’ procedures by postponing authorisation for so long that medical examination becomes useless in terms of collecting evidence.[25]

It is difficult to assess the incidence of rape as victims are often reticent to speak out and many withdraw their complaints under the threat of reprisals.[26] To provide some assistance, voluntary organisations have set up shelters for victims and confidential telephone helplines; they also offer legal advice and psychological counseling. Local authorities have established shelters for battered women in some cities, including St Petersburg, but there are no state shelters in Moscow.[27]

There are no official statistics about domestic violence, though it is known to be very common; as many as 30% of married women experienced regular violent episodes at the hands of their spouses.[28] A large number of Russian women are killed by their husbands; in 2003, 9,000 women were killed as a result of “family or domestic crimes,” representing 32% of all homicides in the country.[29] Further, the police often refuse to record complaints from abused wives.[30] The U.S. State Department, citing observers’ reports, estimates that between 35 and 60 women are killed annually in ‘honor killings’ in the North Caucasus region.[31]

During the second Chechen war in 1999, Russian forces were accused of systematic human rights abuses against women, men and children, including sexual violence.[32] Human trafficking is illegal in Russia, punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment in aggravating circumstances.[33] Nevertheless, a growing number of Russian women are trafficked to work as sex workers to western Europe, Israel and East Asia, although the lack of official statistics make the magnitude of the problem hard to assess.[34] Some sources estimate up to half of these women are unaware that they are being recruited for sex work, and most are subsequently subjected to significant psychological and physical violence.[35] Sexual harassment in the workplace is also common; legal resources to address the issue are lacking and public opinion generally views it as a minor problem.[36] The high level of unemployment in Russia exacerbates the problems of trafficking of women and sexual harassment in the workplace.[37]

There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practiced in Russia.

There are signs that the reproductive freedom of Russian women has decreased in recent years. Citing a 2004 state survey, the 2009 United Nations’ Human Development Report for Russia estimated that the rate of women using modern methods of contraceptives as a form of family planning could be as high as 40%.[38] This is thirteen points lower than 1999 figures as reported by the United Nations Population Division.[39] The U.S. Department of State reports that reproductive rights advocates and international family planning organizations are unable to operate inside Russia due to opposition from the Orthodox Church and from the government, which has undertaken a nationwide campaign to increase Russian fertility levels. The Russian population has declined by six million since the collapse of the Communist government in 1991.[40] There are no legal restrictions with regards to abortion in Russia.[41]

Son Bias

The 2010 female-to-male ratio both for primary and secondary school enrollment is 1.00, indicating that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to access to education.[42]

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.85.[43]

There is no evidence to suggest that Russia is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

The Russian Civil Code provides equal rights to access land and access property other than land for men and women. All property acquired during a marriage is the couple’s joint property, and unless their marriage contract states otherwise, it is split into two equal shares in the event of divorce.[44] Men and women have equal rights to obtain access to bank loans. Women actively pursue credit and represent between 25 and 30% of small business owners in Russia, some with the assistance of private microfinance institutions. However, women often encounter restrictions in their access to credit due to poverty.[45] There are no state-sponsored efforts in Russia to aid women in overcoming the difficulties they have obtaining loans in the private sector.[46]

Restricted Civil Liberties

Under the Soviet system, women’s freedom of movement was curtailed by the requirement of a valid propiska which was required to change residence, get married, get a job, access services or travel. Although the Russian Constitutional Court has abolished propiska several times since 1991, propiska-like practices reportedly continue in many places, restricting freedom of movement for women, for example those women who seek to leave abusive relationships.[47]

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, in practice the government still controlled many media outlets in the course of 2010 and infringed on those rights including the right of assembly and association, sometimes with the collusion of the police.[48]

The level of women’s political participation has risen in recent years back to Soviet levels after falling throughout the 1990s to a low of 7.7% in the State Duma and 0.6 in the Federation Council after the 2000 elections.[49] As of the elections in December 2007, there were 63 women in the 450-seat State Duma, for a rate of 14%. However, in the upper house, the Federation Council, only 8 of 169 seats, or 4.7%, are held by women.[50] Women do not hold many positions of leadership in politics: there are two female ministers in the federal government, and only one of the 83 regions is led by a woman. None of the political parties have a woman leader.[51]

Pursuant to the desire of the government to increase the population, women in Russia have extensive maternity protections. Pregnant women are entitled to 140 days of paid leave at 100% of their wage, paid by the national social insurance fund. Women also have additional protections against termination and must be granted part-time work if requested.[52] There is evidence, however, that employers discriminate against women of child-bearing age to save on costs; some employers require women to sign agreements stating that they will not get pregnant, and may force them to resign upon conception.[53]


  1. BBC News (2011), Croatia country profile, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  2. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) World Factbook: Russia, online edition, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  3. World Bank (n.d.) Data: Russia, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  4. ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) (2006), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk. Addendum: Mission to the Russian Federation, E/CN.4/2006/61/Add.2, ECOSOC: New York, NY, p. 6-8;
  5. ABA-CEELI (American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (2006), CEDAW Assessment Tool Report for the Russian Federation, ABA-CEELI: Washington, DC, pp. 17-19.
  6. US Department of State (2010a) ‘2010 Country Reports on Human Rights: Russia, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  7. Article 19 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, adopted 12 December 1993; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2009), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Russian Federation, Combined Sixth and Seventh Periodic Reports on States Parties, pp. 42-43; American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA- CEELI) (2006), CEDAW Assessment Tool Report for the Russian Federation, p. 15.
  8. United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. CEDAW: (accessed 20 October 2011); Optional Protocol: (accessed 20 October 2011)
  9. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at (accessed 29 February 2012), p.128
  10. United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.140
  11. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at (accessed 2 March 2012), p.10
  12. Article 13 of the Family Code; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1999), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Russian Federation, Fifth Periodic Report on States Parties, pp. 35-36.
  13. United Nations (UN) (2008), World Marriage Data 2008
  14. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 120-121.
  15. Pew Research Center (2007), Global Attitudes Project: Spring 2007 Survey, Pew Research Center: Washington, DC., Pew Research Center (2007), Global Attitudes Project, Spring 2007 Survey, Question Q.44.
  16. US Department of State (2010a)
  17. Article 14 of the Family Code; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (2000), Women 2000: An Investigation Into the Status of Women’s Rights in the Former Soviet Union and Central and South-Eastern Europe-Russian Federation, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Vienna, pp. 377-378; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 121.
  18. Article 61 of the Family Code; CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (1999), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Russian Federation, Fifth Periodic Report on States Parties, CEDAW/C/USR/5, CEDAW: New York, NY, p. 34; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 121.
  19. Articles 24 and 80 of the Family Code; IHFHR 2000, p. 376.
  20. CEDAW 1999, p. 34; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 121.
  21. Articles 115 and 166 of the Criminal Code; Articles 20 and 318 of the Criminal Procedure Code; ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 89-90.
  22. Articles 131 and 132 of the Criminal Code; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 91; State Dept. 2010.
  23. Amnesty International (2010), ‘Russian Federation – Briefing to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’, 46th session, July 2010, p. 13, available online, (accessed 20 October 2011), p. 13
  24. CEDAW 1999, p. 38; ECOSOC 2006, p. 9
  25. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 105-106; State Dept. 2010.
  26. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 105-106.
  27. CEDAW 1999, p. 22; ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 102-103; ECOSOC 2006, p. 10
  28. CEDAW 1999, p. 38
  29. ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 97, citing data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  30. CEDAW 1999, p. 38; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 98
  31. US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Russia, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC.
  32. Bastick, M., Grimm, K. and Kunz, R. (2007), Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Global Overview and Implications for the Security Sector, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Geneva, Switzerland, p. 123: (accessed 20 October 2011)
  33. Article 127 of the Criminal Code, adopted December 2003; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 46
  34. CEDAW 1999, p. 18; ABA-CEELI 2006, p. 48; State Dept. 2010
  35. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 47-48
  36. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 19-20
  37. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 51-52
  38. Vishnevsky, A.G. and S.N. Bobylev (2009), National Human Development Report, Russian Federation 2008, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme): Moscow, Russian Federation, p. 48
  39. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2011), World Abortion Policies 2011, available online: (accessed 20 October 2011)
  40. State Dept. 2010
  41. UN DESA (2011)
  42. World Bank (2010), Women, Business, and the Law: Measuring Legal Gender Parity for Entrepreneurs and Workers in 128 Economies, World Bank: Washington, DC.
  43. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at (accessed 29 February 2012)
  44. Article 34 of the Family Code; CEDAW 1999, p. 35
  45. CEDAW (2009), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Russian Federation, Combined Sixth and Seventh Periodic Report on States Parties, CEDAW/C/USR/7, CEDAW: New York, NY p. 43
  46. ABA-CEELI 2006, pp. 110-111
  47. ECOSOC 2006, pp. 10-11
  48. US Department of State (2010a)
  49. ECOSOC 2006, p. 5
  50. IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva,
  51. State Dept. 2010
  52. ILO (International Labour Organization) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 12 April 2010); SSA (Social Security Administration), ISSA (International Social Security Association) (2008), Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2008, SSA: Washington, DC., p. 268; CEDAW 2009, pp. 31-31
  53. U.S. State Department (2010), 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Russia; ECOSOC 2006, p. 6

The Women, Business and the Law 

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Russian Federation, please visit the Women, Business and the Law Russian Federation page.


The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database

FAO logo.jpg

The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law 
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information on Russian Federation, please visit the report on Russian Federation in the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.


External Links

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