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Russian Parliament Votes to Decriminalise Domestic Violence

Many fear the bill could send the wrong message to perpetrators and leave abuse victims powerless.

According to official Russian Government statistics, an astounding 36,000 women are assaulted by their partners in the country every day. The nation’s victims and activists want domestic abuse to be addressed before it spirals out of control.

But in a shock move, the Moscow Times reports Russian parliament has passed a bill proposing to decriminalise domestic violence. A staggering 368 members voted in favour of the motion yesterday. The MP behind the agenda (which began in 2016), Yelena Mizulina, has defended her stance, “You don’t want people to be imprisoned for two years and labelled a criminal for the rest of their lives for a slap.” The bill is said to concern mainly non-serious assaults causing “bruises or grazes”.

But there are those who are opposed to the idea saying that it would leave survivors of domestic abuse powerless, and ultimately downgrade domestic assault in the home to a misdemeanour. One such member of the community is women’s rights activist, Alyona Popova, who protested against the bill outside the State Duma building yesterday with a placard reading, “I created you, I kill you.” Also adding “in 2015, 11,756 boys and girls suffered from violent crimes in families.” 

In a Facebook post, Popova argued, “These people didn’t propose legislation that would improve the court system or the law enforcement, they just supported transferring liability into fines. It means that an offender will now beat [his relatives] and pay a small fine.”

But for the ultra-conservative Mizulina – the same MP who successfully passed a law banning gay propaganda, including material on LGBTQ rights – family tradition is to be respected, “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power,” she said. “The laws should support that family tradition.”

The numbers around violence in the country have already reached alarming levels, and with 40% of violent crimes in Russia committed within the family, one can only hope further legislative changes will not endanger victims or worse, result in devastating consequences.

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