MOSCOW – A bill that would decriminalize some forms of domestic violence in Russia passed a key stage in the Duma on Wednesday.
The bill, dubbed the “slapping law”, decriminalizes a first offence of domestic violence that does not seriously injure the person, making it a less serious administrative offence. The bill also includes violence against children.
More than 85 per cent of legislators in Russia’s Duma approved the bill –– seen as part of President Vladimir Putin’s drive to appease conservative pushing “traditional family values” –– on Wednesday in its second reading. It will need a third reading and vote before going to the upper house and then to the president to sign into law.
The bill’s sponsors, including conservative senator Yelena Mizulina, say the proposed law would simply bring family law into line with reforms passed last summer that loosened punishment for other minor assaults.
Mizulina, a staunch proponent of traditional values, was also the author of Russia’s controversial “gay propaganda law”, which prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships”.
The Russian Orthodox Church, with its emphasis on the traditional family, is also influencing the debate. So are the traditional rules of Russian family life, including the “domostroi”, a centuries-old manual prescribing strict rules of behavior and requiring absolute submission to the head of the family.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say whether domestic violence should be decriminalized, but told journalists that “creating solid families is a priority. It’s what everyone needs”.
Women’s rights groups have vocally opposed the bill, saying that decriminalizing assaults will only encourage more violence in a country where the rate of assaults in homes are relatively high.
Human Rights Watch has urged parliament to reject the law, calling it “dangerous and incompatible with Russia’s international human rights obligations”.
“Passage of this law would be a huge step backward for Russia, where victims of domestic violence already face enormous obstacles to getting help or justice,” said Human Rights Watch Russia researcher, Yulia Gorbunova.
Official data on domestic violence in Russia is not centrally collected so it’s difficult to verify. But state-run news agency RIA Novosti has reported that 40 per cent of serious crimes in Russia are committed in the family, 36,000 women are beaten by their husbands daily, and 12,000 women die yearly as a result of domestic violence –– one woman every 44 minutes.