By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe
MOSCOW, Russia — The Duma recently passed a bill which would decriminalize some forms of domestic violence. The bill, also known as the “slapping law,” would eliminate criminal punishments for first offenses, or attacks that occur only once a year in which a woman or child is not “seriously” injured, and does not require hospital treatment or sick leave from work.
Under the bill, the punishment for domestic violence offenders would be limited to a fine or community service, while subsequent offenses can still be considered criminal. The bill passed its first reading at the Duma with a nearly-unanimous 368 out of 370 votes in its favor.
Supporters of the bill claim that current domestic violence penalties are “anti-family” and are a “baseless intervention into family affairs.” The bill was proposed by conservative MP Yelena Mizulina, who is the head of the Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children’s Affairs. Mizulina believes that offenders should not be jailed and deemed a criminal “for a slap” or a “scratch.” According to Mizulina, “battery carried out towards family members should be an administrative offense.”
Those in favor of the bill cite tradition of parental authority as its source. Mizulina and her fellow supporters believe that because traditional Russian family values are built on the parents’ authority, laws should reflect those values and traditions.
Women’s rights group claim that the bill will leave domestic abuse victims even more vulnerable than they already are. Olga Yurkova, executive director of Syostri – a recovery center for sexual assault victims – explained to reporters that the proposed “decriminilisation will worsen the situation” of women tolerating domestic violence but not bringing it to public light.
Women’s rights activist Alena Popova has started a petition which demands the Duma pass a completely new law dealing with domestic violence, which has received over 174,000 signatures. Journalist Olga Bobrova argued that while domestic violence might not leave a physical mark on the victim’s body, such actions still transform “her life into a living hell.” Bobrova also explained that “domestic violence is a normal way of life” in Russia.
Activists recently handed out stories of abuse victims outside of the Duma to spread word of the cause.
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