The good news, according to an article in the Moscow Times:  Russia is about to pass its first anti-sexual harassment law.  The not-so-good news:  while the law may reduce the sexual harassment rate against women at work (now at 30% of women reporting), it may very well be aimed, at least partly, at permitting the deportion of foreign workers.

Last year The World Economic Forum ranked Russia 61st out of 136 countries in terms of gender equality – lower than vitually all Western nations.  The new law, if passed by the Duma, would apply only to women being harassed by men, and would not cover harassment by women or same-sex harassment.

23213567_sThis may be because the bill’s author, Oleg Nilov, said that the proposed  law is designed to protect “the more beautiful, but weaker sex.”

Ah, the medieval chivalry of Mr. Nilov!

Under the proposed law, Russian citizens will face fines and community service, but, ominously, non-Russian offenders also face  deportation, because Russian deputies believe that they “are more likely to commit serious offenses.”   Nilov addressed this additional punishment of non-Russians as follows:  “The millions of migrant workers who speak Russian badly have to rely on body language to make their intentions toward women clear.   Adopting this law can significantly reduce ethnic tensions in our society.”

In Russia, the term “ethnic tensions” is fraught with racial overtones, and the proposed new law and Nilov’s statement has sent a clear message as to the intent of the law.   As the Moscow Times reports:  “Immigration and fear of ethnic crime remains a contentious issue in Russia, despite government data proving that just 1.8 percent of crimes reported to police in 2012 were committed by foreign nationals. About 35 percent of Russians see[] migrant workers as a “threat,” according to a 2013 survey by state pollster VTsIOM.”

Indeed, the president of the Federation of Migrants in Russia commented “This bill will restrict the freedoms of both Russian and non-Russian citizens and will give the racist elements in the country’s law enforcement agencies more opportunity to assert themselves.”

He also declared that:  “People who are unfriendly towards immigrants will get an opportunity to provoke or falsify the situations that would lead to deportations. The bill also contradicts the international law that orders that persons convicted on the territory of a certain state must serve their punishment within the borders of this same state,”

We shall see.