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Women being made to pay husbands’ domestic abuse fines following amendment to Russian law

(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia back in February, activists say that a cruelly-designed loophole in the law is being used to force women to pay their abusive spouse’s fines.

Under Russia’s new domestic violence law, acts of violence committed against a spouse are punishable by 15 days in prison or a fine of just over $500 if none of the victim’s bones were broken. Previously, domestic violence charges had been treated as battery, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years. But according to Marina Pisklakova-Parker, the leader of domestic violence support organization the ANNA Center, wives who have shared bank accounts with their husbands have discovered that they are considered jointly liable for the domestic violence fines incurred by their husbands.

“Official statistics will demonstrate a decrease in (domestic violence) cases next year, but this is not because much has been done,” she said. “Rather, it is because fewer cases are being filed. The amendments have sent a message to women that it is useless to search for help, and to the perpetrators that this is all right to do.”

“It’s a common situation that the woman will pay her abuser’s fine,” added activist Alena Popova. “According to the law, the woman needs to pay if [she] and her husband share a common family bank account. In reality, the man will often ask the woman to pay because he thinks she was wrong to complain or because he doesn’t have enough money.”

In recent months, Russia has been racked by high-profile domestic abuse cases, including last week when 26-year-old Margarita Grachyova lost the use of one hand and had the other hand amputated after her husband tried to chop them off with an axe. Popova said that Grachova had reported domestic violence by her husband on multiple occasions, but that police had refused to intervene.

According to Russia’s interior ministry, domestic violence in the country kills 14,000 women a year.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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