A Human Rights Watch report found that Russian authorities do not investigate women’s claims of domestic violence and abuses because domestic violence is decriminalized in Russia. Instead, police recommend that women return to their abusers, leaving women with virtually no protection from intimate partner violence. Further, the report discovered that women are often blamed for the violence they experience from intimate partners, with police and courts refusing to investigate or prosecute, telling women they should instead stop “provoking” men to violence. This forces women to turn to private prosecution as the only option for legal recourse, a process that is expensive and time consuming as women must collect all evidence on their own.
Yulia Gorbunova who authored the report, said that “Women in Russia are often left to face domestic violence completely on their own. Existing laws simply do not protect them when they become caught in a cycle of repeated abuse, with nowhere to turn.” It is estimated that 36,000 Russian women are abused every day and 600 women are killed each month in their homes.
The lack of institutional support is coupled with social stigma, preventing women from reporting. In Russia there is a traditional saying that “if he beats you, it means he loves you.” The magazine Komsomolskaya Pravada printed an article that told women that they should be proud of their bruises because it means they are more likely to have sons. Domestic violence is seen as a private matter, one that should be resolved within a family, keeping many women in long abusive relationships without avenues for help and support. This report comes a year after Russia passed a bill that decriminalized forms of domestic abuse. 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.
Russia is also one of two countries in the Council of Europe that refused to sign or ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. However, Russia has signed and ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, unlike the United States which never ratified the convention.
Media Resources: Independent 10/26/2018; Human Rights Watch 10/25/2018; BBC News 3/1/2018; Feminist Newswire 1/19/17;The Moscow Times 8/5/2016; Council of Europe 1/8/2014; United Nations Treaty Collection 8/3/1981