Russian Women's Right to Self-Defense
Monday, September 19, 2005 4:50 PM

This year Russia tried a landmark case concerning a woman’s right to self-defense.  On December 8, 2003, Alexandra Ivannikova, 29, hailed a car for a ride home.  The driver, Sergei Bagdasaryan,23, agreed to drive Ivannikova for an arranged fee.  On the ride home Bagdasaryan passed Ivannikova’s house and pulled into a dark side street.  Bagdasaryan stopped the car, locked the doors, and demanded that Ivannikova perform oral sex on him.  Bagdasaryan took off his pants and his underwear.  Ivannikova responded by reaching into her purse for a kitchen knife and stabbed Bagdasaryan in the thigh, puncturing his femoral artery.  Ivannikova got out of the car and ran.  Ivannikova informed a police officer of what had occurred.  When the police reached the scene Bagdasaryan was dead, having bled to death.

At the trial, Ivannikova’s defense attorney pleaded momentary insanity and self defense.  Despite acknowledging the attempted rape, the court found Ivannikova guilty of murder.  Ivannikova received a two year suspended sentence and was ordered to pay Bagdasaryan’s family over $7,000. 

The case drew both national and international attention.  The public responded with an outcry that Ivannikova acted in self-defense and does not deserve her sentence.  A week later, uncharacteristically, the City Prosecutor requested for the court to overturn the verdict, changing it to “no crime was committed.”  The prosecutions support for Ivannikova’s response demonstrates a shift in Russian law regarding use of self-defense.  Late last year Russian legislature abandoned a long practiced policy of “adequate response.”  Under adequate response a victim could only respond with force equal to or less than that of the perpetrator.  The past practice would leave a rape victim optionless. 

The charges against Ivannikova have been repealed.  Her case represents a positive step toward the empowerment of women.

Compiled From

The Network of East-West Women-Polska/NEWW, accessed 09/19/05.

The Mos News, accessed 09/22/05.

Pravda, accessed 09/22/05.

SFGate, accessed 09/22/05.