A bill proposing the decriminalization of domestic violence was introduced to Russia’s State Duma in August by ultra-conservative Yelena Mizulina, best known for her successful anti-LGBTQ legislature against “gay propaganda.” The proposed legislation passed the first reading early around the new year, in a vote of 368 to 1.
The New York Times reports that the bill passed its second reading on Wednesday, which essentially means that Vladimir Putin just needs to sign his name for it to be incorporated into their criminal code:
The amendment treats a first conviction for domestic battery as an administrative offense, carrying a penalty of a $500 fine or 15 days in jail.
If Mr. Putin signs the measure into law, only injuries like concussions or broken bones, or repeated offenses committed in a family setting, would lead to criminal charges.Defenders of the measure say it will protect parents’ rights to discipline their children and generally reduce the state’s role in domestic life.
“In the traditional Russian family culture,” said Mizulina, “relations between ‘fathers and sons’ are built upon the authority of parents’ power, mutual love and personal indispensability as the basis for children’s upbringing.”
But as Russian specialist in gender studies, Svetlana G. Aivazova, told the NYT, “It is clear that lawmakers recognized violence as a norm of family life,” continuing, “This shows that Duma deputies are not simply conservative or traditional, it shows that they are archaic.”
Aivazova spoke to Putin at a Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in 2015, citing data from Russia’s Interior Ministry that stated “40 percent of all grave violent crimes are committed in families.” The numbers are astounding:
In 2013, she said, more than 9,000 women died in criminal assaults and more than 11,000 were badly injured. In 2014, she said, “more than 25 percent of all murders were committed in families.”
In the United States, by comparison, 11,766 women were killed by a husband or boyfriend in the years 2001 to 2012, an average of about 1,000 a year in a country with about twice the population of Russia.
Human Rights Watch reports that the laws actually criminalizing domestic violence were only introduced in July of 2016; they were roundly criticized by the Russian Orthodox Church, which wrote, “The Patriarchal Commission considers wrong and unacceptable approach of criminalization of normal parental behavior and prosecuting the application of those methods of education, which, without causing any real damage to society and children themselves when properly used, have been used for many generations, they have been considered until now socially acceptable in the Russian society.”
HRW also says that getting authorities to respond to domestic abuse cases is very difficult, as officers frequently ignore complaints or refuse to investigate. Additionally, resources for victims of domestic violence are scarce. Moscow, as an example, has a population of 12 million and only 150 shelter spaces. Yulia Gorbunova, a Russian researcher for HRW, states, “Contending that beating a relative is a manifestation of ‘family values’ is shameful... Victims are the ones who need protection, not the abusers.”