Today, Russia’s human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova admitted that she regrets Russia’s decision to decriminalize domestic abuse last year and called for new laws to protect women and children from domestic violence.
Moskalkova stated today that she “believes that decriminalization was a mistake and we need to adopt a law to combat domestic abuse.” She went on to say that, “today, a person who is in the family space is not protected from family members who do harm unto them without it being considered a crime.”
In 2017, 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.
Moskalkova supported the decriminalization of domestic abuse in 2017, arguing that if men were imprisoned for being “mildly abusive” then households would lose their primary source of income. She believed this was more damaging to families than domestic violence; although she has now changed her stance after witnessing the increasingly harmful effects of violence on women, children, and the elderly.
A Human Rights Watch report in October found that Russian authorities do not investigate women’s claims of domestic violence and abuses because of decriminalization. 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. This means that every 40 minutes a woman is killed from domestic violence in Russia.
Media Resources: Newsweek 12/3/18; Feminist Newswire 10/26/18; Feminist Newswire 1/19/17