This past week, Russia passed a bill decriminalizing certain forms of domestic violence with the support of 368 lawmakers in the first reading of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house parliament. The bill, which is referred to as the “slapping law” downplays the “battery within families” charge to an administrative offense rather than a criminal one. Criminal punishment no longer applies to cases that involve first offenses or offenses that occur once in the year on the condition that injuries requiring hospital attention or days off from work do not ensue.
The bill was proposed by Yelena Mizulina, a lawmaker known for her conservative agenda as she played a critical role in writing and passing Russia’s gay propaganda law. This law is a federal ban on the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and was put into effect in 2013.
Mizulina argued having criminal penalties for these forms of domestic violence is a “baseless intervention into family affairs.” Her objective in lowering the penalties for domestic violence charges is to mirror the “traditional family culture” of Russia and uphold parental authority in law.
Russia’s decriminalization of domestic violence has sparked outrage and concern among women’s rights and domestic violence advocacy groups across the world. There is a widespread fear that this bill will increase violence against women and children and maintain a society that does not take domestic violence seriously.
There is currently a change.org petition, started by activist Alena Popova, circulating and pushing for Russia’s State Duma to pass an entirely new law taking action against domestic violence. The petition also calls for the Ministry of Internal Affairs to form a special domestic violence subdivision to ensure protections are implemented.
According to reports published by the Russian government, among serious crimes, 40 percent are committed within the family. 36,000 women experience physical abuse at the hands of their husbands on a daily basis, 26,000 children are abused by their parents and 14,000 women a year die from domestic violence in Russia alone.
Media Resources: The Huffington Post 1/14/17, The Guardian 6/11/13, CNN 1/13/17, Change.org 1/13/17, The Moscow Times 1/11/17