Russian Women Most Likely To Be Imprisoned During Protests Against Putin's War

Last updated: 2023-03-04 06:14

Women made up more than half arrested in protests against mobilisation and more than two-thirds of the detained during demonstrations against Putin's war.


Women in Russia make up a rising proportion of those being detained in protests against President Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation for the war in Ukraine, data show, as many Russian men fear being sent to the frontlines if they demonstrate.

Court documents also show more women in Moscow being charged in relation to anti-war protests in February and March in the early weeks of the conflict than in anti-Putin protests in previous years.

Among women protesters heading to central Moscow on the evening of Sept. 24 was 19-year-old Lisa. Before she joined the crowd a police officer in body armour grabbed her arm and threw her into a van. She spent a week in detention.
Three days earlier Putin announced a partial mobilisation of reservists to fight in Ukraine, prompting tens of thousands of Russian men to flee abroad, often by circuitous routes.

When the war started, I felt like my future was not happening anymore, said Lisa, who asked to use only her first name for fear of repercussions. But I also started feeling guilty for thinking about my own future when people in Ukraine felt much more fear every day, she added.

Elizaveta, 27, who asked to be identified only by her first name, said she received a 12-day jail sentence after protesting in February. She spent nine of those days at a police station where she slept on the bare floor in a dark cell. There was no hot water and the only food was brought by friends. She showed Reuters documents and photographs relating to her detention.

The proportion of women likely higher in all three years

Women made up 51 per cent of 1,383 people arrested in the Sept. 21 anti-mobilisation protest and 71 per cent of the 848 detained on Sept. 24, according to data from OVD-Info, a Russian group that monitors protests.

The group, which described the Sept. 21 and Sept. 24 protests as the largest in a series of anti-mobilisation demonstrations, said the rising share of women detained on Sept. 24 came as some men feared being drafted if arrested.

An analysis analysis of court documents showed women who protested in the early weeks of the war in February and March made up at least 30 per cent of those charged, up from at least 11 per cent in protests in 2021 and at least 6 per cent in 2019 protests.

The proportion of women was likely higher in all three years because analysts were only able to determine the gender in about 80 per cent of cases from protesters’ surnames.

Ella Rossman, a researcher at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, attributed the rise in the share of women at protests to fears of some men of conscription and to a growing Russian feminist movement.

Protests, not only on the streets

Ms. Rossman, who is mapping out Russian feminist activism, counted 45 Russian feminist groups in 2021, up from about 30 in 2019.

Female protesters in Russia are particularly vulnerable to the threat of sexual violence, said OVD-Info lawyer Ms. Daria Korolenko. The group documented about 200 cases of women threatened with sexual violence, deprived of food or sleep or subjected to other mistreatment while detained over protests between Sept. 21 and 26.

Women have not only protested the war on the streets.

Shortly after the conflict began Ms. Rossman formed a movement with other activists – the Feminist Anti-War Resistance. Its members post about the war on social media and distribute a newspaper in Russia, she said, adding that they also write anti-war slogans on rouble bank notes and on price tags in stores.

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