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Russia approves bill that seeks to decriminalize domestic violence

By WITW Staff on January 23, 2017

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has approved a bill that would eradicate criminal liability for acts of domestic violence, provided that they do not involve serious bodily harm or rape. The legislation proposes making domestic battery punishable by a fine of less than 30,000 rubles (some $500) or a 15-day arrest, rather than prolonged prison time.

According to The Associated Press, the bill is slated for a second reading in the Duma on Wednesday; should it pass, the bill will likely breeze through the upper house to the desk of Vladimir Putin.

The bill arose from a contested Supreme Court ruling, which sought to decriminalize battery that does not inflict bodily harm, but retain liability for battery inflicted upon family members. Conservative activists voiced their dissent, saying that such a ruling could lead to harsher punishments for parents who spank their own children than for adults who hit a child not related to them. Yelena Mizulina, the conservative politician behind Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban, then introduced legislation that would also decriminalize battery in cases of domestic violence.

Parliamentary sparring over the issue soon fizzled out, but the topic was revived when a journalist asked Putin about it during a news conference. Putin replied that “It’s better not to spank children and refer to some traditions,” but also said, “We should not go overboard with it [punishment for battery]. It’s not good, it harms families.”

A recent survey found that 19 percent of Russians believe “it can be acceptable” to hit a family member under certain circumstances. Statistics from the country’s Interior Ministry indicate that 40 percent of all violent crimes are committed within a family setting. There is little reliable data on domestic violence in Russia, but 9,000 women were reportedly killed by acts of domestic violence in 2013.

There has been some resistance to the government’s efforts to decriminalize domestic violence. An online petition objecting to the proposed legislation has drawn around 180,000 signatures. When Olga Batalina, one of the bill’s co-authors, claimed that the legislation was “only talking about bruises, scratches,” she faced swift condemnation from  deputy Oleg Nilov. “Has anyone tried going around with a bruise for a week?” he asked. “Does anyone think it’s OK?”

Aside from that, however, there has been little in the way of mass protests against the bill.

Read the full story at ABC News.



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