January 18, 2011

MOSCOW — A top official for the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday proposed creating an "all-Russian dress code,” lashing out at women who leave the house "painted like a clown” and "confuse the street with striptease.”

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has angered women’s groups recently with his comments about female modesty. At a December round table on interethnic relations, he said a woman wearing a miniskirt "can provoke not only a man from the Caucasus,” the predominately Muslim region on Russia’s southern border, "but a Russian man as well.”

"If she is drunk on top of that, she will provoke him even more,” he said. "If she is actively inviting contact, and then is surprised that this contact ends with a rape, she is all the more at fault.”

Feminists began a series of protests and petitions against Father Chaplin, who leads the church’s social outreach department and is a close associate of Patriarch Kirill I. He responded Tuesday with a pungent letter, saying provocative clothing led to "to short-term marriages, which are immediately followed by ratlike divorces, to the destruction of children’s lives, to solitude and madness, to life-catastrophe.”

He argued that clothing was not a private business, and that he hoped that Russia would soon be a place where scantily dressed women or men in track suits would not be admitted into public venues.

"You think it’s a utopia?” he said. "Well, you will have to get used to it soon.”

His comments sounded especially jarring in Moscow, whose women soldier through arctic winters in stiletto heels and cocktail dresses. Commentators responded to the idea with shock and large doses of sarcasm.

"It is not good for a woman to wear only one dress — this has long been considered indecent!” wrote Anton Orekh, a commentator for Ekho Moscow radio. "A minimum of three dresses worn on top of one another, this fully corresponds to the dress code of a well-intentioned Russian woman.”

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki group, a human rights group, called the proposal "nonsense.”

"The next thing they will say is that women shouldn’t wear lipstick,” she said.

The church was cautious in its comments on Tuesday. Vladimir Vigilyansky, the patriarch’s chief spokesman, said the dress-code proposal would not be reflected in church documents. He went on to say that clothing styles were best influenced through a "social contract.”

"If a young woman knows that people will look at her askance and consider her an outcast, she will not dress the way so many of them do today,” he told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

The Orthodox Church has an increasingly powerful voice in Russian society, its agenda closely bound to that of the country’s leaders. Kirill, in particular, has made it a point to reach out to young people with a nationalist message, at gatherings that have sometimes resembled rallies of the Kremlin’s youth group, Nashi. Father Chaplin, one of his appointees, once proposed the creation of a network of "Orthodox nightclubs” where young people could gather for late-night fellowship. _____________________________________________________________

Pro Feminism - Russia - http://www.zafeminizm.ru/

Feminist organization "Pro Feminism"of Russia calls for signatures for a petition opposing the discriminatory statements of the Russian Orthodox Church  

Recently we have witnessed a number of statements made by high-ranking representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which affect women's dignity, rights and freedoms and justify discrimination and violence against them. 

Take, for example, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Relations with the Armed Forces, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, who made sexist, discriminatory and chauvinistic statements, which were in contradiction with The Constitution of the Russian Federation and The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (ratified by the Russian Federation). While for the government it is certainly necessary to take measures to address high abortion rates, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov suggested forbidding abortion by law and the introduction of a criminal penalty for having an abortion. While it is the position of the UN that there are not enough women in power, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov tries to convince Russian women that they engage in politics - an activity deemed to be unsuitable for women - only because their family life is unsuccessful. 

Addressing the conference on ethnic relations, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synod for Church Social Relations, re-iterated two false stereotypes at once - that immigrants are prone to violence and women themselves should be blamed for being raped. 

The pressure group "Pro Feminism" calls for action against these discriminatory statements by the Russian Orthodox Church and urges people to sign the petition to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, head of the ROC, asking him to repeal the ROC's discriminatory policy against women and demand high-ranking members of the Church to apologise for their statements.

To sign the petition go to following link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/russian-orthodox/

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