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Removal of ‘slap law’ leads to slap on the wrist for domestic abusers

The Russian government have retreated to an old proverb: if he beats you, he loves you.

BY Micky Goran

For all the women who have discussed feminism with a man (of a pubescent mindset) and come upon the question: so if we’re equal, does that mean I can hit you?

There is now an answer of where they can. Russia. On the 7th of February 2017, President Putin signed a bill to decriminalise first offences of domestic violence.

The bill changes Russia’s previously appointed 2016 domestic violence laws, which applied tougher consequences. Abusers faced two years of jail time for domestic violence instances not resulting in serious bodily harm, while battery between strangers under the same circumstances was legalised. This original bill was passed after statistics revealed that 40% of all violent crime occurs in the home setting.

The 2016 law, dubbed the ‘slap law’, came under scrutiny from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church wrote:

The Patriarchal Commission considers wrong and unacceptable approach of criminalisation of normal parental behaviour 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.

Three weeks before the passing the bill in lower house of Parliament, Putin was recorded saying that “unceremonious interference with the family is impermissible,” despite earlier statements the same day denouncing the tradition of spanking children and discussing the ethical differences between a spanking and a beating as too small.

Ultra-conservative senator Yelena Mizulina is well known in Russia for her anti-LGBTQ legislature and for banning discussion of homosexuality in the media. Mizulina put forward the new decriminalisation laws, stating the previous law from 2016 was “anti-family”. The first reading passed with a vote 368 to 1, with one member of the Duma (or lower house of Russian parliament) abstaining from the vote.

Statistics on domestic violence in Russia are few and far between, most of which are skewed due to fear to come forward, the social stigma attached and an overall lack of trust in the law enforcement to take reports seriously. The National Centre for the Prevention of Violence’s 2013 statistics state that women were 74% of all domestic violence victims, that 80% of violent crimes against women were committed by spouses or partners, and that 36,000 women and 26,000 children face familial violence daily.

2014 found that 25% of all murders were carried out within families.

2015 estimated 7,500 women died from domestic violence in Russia.

Last year alone, Russia’s only domestic violence hotline Anna Care Foundation received 5000 calls. More could have been received, however the centre is only able to remain open between 7am and 9pm.

These statistics are likely to rise with the new, lax penalties awarded to offenders.

The act to decriminalise domestic violence distances victim even further from judicial protection. Russian law enforcement have, in the past, refused to respond to domestic violence reports. One such instance resulted in the investigation of a woman beaten death, directly following a call to the police. The call ended with an officer stating they would only send someone out if he murdered her.

The new law lessens punishment for first time offenders- who’s offence has not resulted in serious bodily harm or rape- to a 15 day administrative arrest or $500 fine, with criminal charges filed only if a repeat offence occurs within a year, or if bodily harm occurs.

The bill passed its second reading in the Upper House of Parliament 380 to 3. Anna Veduta and Alexandra Glebova took the proposition of the bill as an opportunity to go public about their experiences with domestic violence.  Glebova still suffers from depression and nightmares after years of being physically and psychologically abused by her father. She says, “with this law, they break lives.”

Veduta, was 18 when her then boyfriend abused her physically, psychologically and sexually. She says he wouldn’t strike her in the face so anyone would see.

“You’d have bruises on your body, but people don’t see them, especially in winter in Russia.”

When sharing her story online, Veduta found most people lacked sympathy and took instead to victim blaming. Veduta wants one idea to get across: “the victim is never guilty.”

The Russian government have retreated to an old proverb: if he beats you, he loves you. In order to justify intensifying popular archaic values that undermine safety within the home, it leaves men, women and children defenceless to the whims of violent family members. One country is too many for this law to pass in. What will become of family if the law becomes popular practice and spreads? What will the statistics say if this law reaches global acceptance?

 

Resources:

Bershidsky, L. (12th of January, 2017). How Russia decided to allow a little domestic violence. Bloomberg. Retrieved from: bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-12/how-russia-decided-to-allow-a-little-domestic-violence

Gorst, I. (23rd of January, 2017). Russia bans protest against domestic violence bill. The Irish Times. Retrieved from: irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/russia-bans-protest-against-domestic-violence-bill-1.2948060

Lutkin, A. (27th of January, 2017) Law decriminalizing domestic violence in Russia awaits Putin’s signature. Jezebel. Retrieved from: jezebel.com/law-decriminalizing-domestic-violence-in-russia-awaits-1791706553

Kozlowska, H. (28th of January, 2017). Female lawmakers in Russia helped pushed through a bill that will decriminalize domestic violence. Quartz. Retrieved from: qz.com/896625/female-lawmakers-in-russia-helped-pushed-through-a-bill-that-will-decriminalize-domestic-violence

Stanglin, D. (29th of January, 2017). Russian parliament votes 380-3 to decriminalise domestic violence. The Age. Retrieved from: m.theage.com.au/news-and-views/russian-parliament-votes-3803-to-decriminalise-domestic-violence-20170129-gu0q86.html

N/A. (23rd of January, 2017) Russia: bill to decriminalize domestic violence. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from: hrw.org/news/2017/01/23/russia-bill-decriminalize-domestic-violence

N/A. (4th of February, 2017). Victims angry over Russia cutting domestic abuse penalties. SBS. Retrieved from: sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/02/04/victims-angry-over-russia-cutting-domestic-abuse-penalties

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