As women’s rights activists around the word inch slowly closer to properly addressing and combating domestic violence, Russia just took a step in the opposite direction.
On Wednesday, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted to decriminalize “battery within the family,” downgrading it from a criminal offense to an administrative offense.
The new law, supported by 368 out of 370 senators, means that family violence that does not result in medical treatment or sick leave for the victim is not criminal (completely disregarding the severe mental health effects of domestic violence). If violence occurs more than once per year, it can potentially still be considered criminal, although it’s not clear under what circumstances.
Russian journalist Olga Bobrova wrote in November that domestic violence is dangerously normalized in Russia, and that the new law “only legalizes the order of things, which was strengthened in the minds of Russians.”
Changemakers argued that the law should reflect the traditional power dynamics within the family, and should not "contradict the system of social values that society holds on to,” ultraconservative senator Yelena Mizulina told the Moscow Times.
Because apparently laws are meant to protect unfair power dynamics rather than those who suffer from them. Ugh.
You may or may not remember Senator Mizulina as the author of the so-called “gay propaganda law,” which made exposing minors to representations of non-traditional relationships a crime in Russia.
Official data on domestic violence in Russia is limited. According to the BBC, “Estimates based on regional studies suggest some 600,000 women in Russia face physical and verbal abuse at home and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners each year - almost 40 a day.” A 2010 report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women stressed the inadequacy of Russian law in dealing with domestic violence, recommending the introduction of protective orders for victims, rehabilitation programs, and recategorization of family violence from private to public prosecution. Definitely didn't mention decriminalization. Nope.
A Russian petition on Change.org was already calling for stronger measures, not weaker ones. You can sign it here.
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