Russian lawmakers approved Friday a law decriminalising domestic violence, limiting the means for recourse available to victims as well as softening the penalties for their abusers.
Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, voted 380-3 in favour of the
bill, which now needs the approval of the upper house and President
Vladimir Putin, usually a mere formality.
Under the proposed legislation, first-time offenders who do not cause
serious injury will face a fine of up to 30,000 rubles (US$ 500),
instead of up to two years in jail as required under the current law.
"We want to show that Russian deputies will not allow the same
excesses present in Western Europe," said ruling United Russia lawmaker
Andrei Isayev, claiming that European children "inform on their parents"
in order to get their way, which leads to the parents losing custody.
Russian human rights activists have harshly criticised the bill,
which they believe will undermine the fight against domestic violence, a
serious problem in Russia.
Communist members opposed the bill after the Duma Wednesday rejected
their proposal to exclude from decriminalisation attacks against
children and pregnant women.
“Women often do not go to the police or the courts to complain about
their violent husband,” said Yuri Sinelshchikov, a Communist Party
official. " Now they will go even less, and the number of murders will
Interior Ministry data show that 40 per cent of all violent crimes in
Russia are committed in family surroundings. In 2013, more than 9,000
women were reported to have been killed in domestic violence, and more
than 11,000 were badly injured.
According to the Russian state statistics agency, in 2015 there were
49,579 crimes involving violence in the family, of those 35,899
involving violence against a woman.
A survey this month by state-run pollster VTsIOM showed that 19 per
cent of Russians said “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband
or child “in certain circumstances.”
Independent research cited by Human Rights Watch show that the
problem is even worse.
One study in 2013 found more than 80 per cent of
violent crimes against women in Russia are committed by spouses or
intimate partners. Up to 36,000 women and 26,000 children face violence
in the family every day.
In a 2011 study of 30,000 women in 60 Russian regions, 38 per cent of
women said they had been subjected to psychological violence, whilst
every fifth respondent said that they had been subjected to physical
violence by their husbands or partners.
In a 2005 study of 2,200 people in 50 towns and cities across Russia,
70 per cent of women said they had been subjected to at least one form
of violence – physical, sexual, economic, or psychological – by their
husbands, and 36 per cent experienced both physical and psychological
Activists accuse the Russian government of failing to prevent
domestic violence and ensuring justice for victims. Officials tend not
to investigate or even respond to allegations.
The lack of facilities for victims makes matters worse.
Moscow has in
fact less than 150 shelter spaces for more than 12 million people.