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Feminism Around the World: Russia Possibly Set to Decriminalize Domestic Violence, Because Who Needs Progress?


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Welcome to Feminism Around the World, a weekly feature here at TMS where we focus on women’s lives and feminist concerns around the world by applauding successes, reporting injustices, and amplifying the conversation around solutions to gender-based inequality. Because “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” – Teresa

RUSSIA: Nation Possibly Set to Decriminalize Certain Types of Domestic Violence

While it is difficult to obtain official numbers regarding women and domestic violence in Russia, the ANNA National Centre for the Prevention of Violence estimates that “violence, in one form or another, takes place in one in four families, and two-thirds of homicides are attributable to household or domestic motives.” Regional studies show that around 600,000 women in Russia face physical and verbal abuse in their homes and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by their husbands or partners every year (almost 40 a day). So it was hugely distressing to women’s rights activists in Russia to learn that last week, Russia’s Duma passed a bill  by a vote of 368 to 1 (with one abstention) that would decriminalize certain “less serious” forms of domestic violence, chipping away at progress that was already hard-won.

Dubbed the “slapping law” by Russian press, the bill relates to”violent actions causing injuries which do not require hospital treatment or cause the victim to require sick leave from work.” These “less serious injuries” if committed as a first offense, would be qualified “as administrative – rather than criminal – offences,” according to BBC News.  For that first offense, you could be fined, or have to do community service, but no jail time or criminal charges.

Subsequent incidents could still be considered criminal, however.

Now, you could punch someone and not have them need hospital treatment and still be able to go to work, so this bill basically functions as a “Punch Your Spouse Free Card.” Apparently, it’s not really domestic abuse if it doesn’t put someone in the hospital, or force them to stay home sick from work. So you could punch your spouse not that hard every couple of days and that’s fine I guess?

What’s even more disturbing is that the reasoning behind the new bill is related to violence between parent and child in addition to violence between spouses/partners.

MP Yelena Mizulina, the conservative lawmaker who introduced the bill, said that “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power… The laws should support that family tradition.” The family tradition of being able to slap your kids whenever you want. Because the only way for a parent to maintain authority is by slapping them. Kids don’t respect parents any other way. Right? *sigh*

However, this bill that is designed to allow parents to keep their slapping privileges also undermines adult victims in abusive domestic relationships and emboldens the perpetrators of that violence. Olga Bobrova, a journalist at Novaya Gazeta, talks about how whether violence leaves marks or not, it can “transform [a woman’s] life into a living hell.” Frequently reporting on stories of domestic violence, Bobrova has written that “domestic violence is a normal way of life” in Russia.

This was the bill’s first reading in the Duma. It will have to go through a second and third reading before being voted on again. We stand with the Russian women’s rights advocates who are fighting the passage of this bill into law.

(image via Shutterstock)


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