Russia Decriminalizes Forms of Domestic Violence

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.

Conservative MP Yelena Mizulina is spearheading and sponsoring the domestic violence bill (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Conservative MP Yelena Mizulina is spearheading and sponsoring the domestic violence bill (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

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.

 

For more information, please see:

The Huffington Post — Russia Moves to Decriminalize Several Cases of Domestic Violence — 14 January 2017

CNN — Russia Prepares to Decriminalize Some Domestic Violence — 13 January 2017

BBC — Russia: Anger at Move to Soften Domestic Violence Law — 12 January 2017

Mic — Russia’s Proposal to Decriminalize Domestic Violence Earns a Sweeping Parliamentary Victory — 12 January 2017

In Argentina, 200,000 say “not one less”

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Over 200,000 people took part in demonstrations outside of the National Congress in Buenos Aires on Wednesday 4 June to protest violence against women. Smaller protests also occurred in 80 other cities around the country. Demonstrations were also held in neighboring Chile and Uruguay.

Over 200,000 surrounded the National Congress to protest femicide. (Photo Courtesy of PanAm Post)

Demonstrators carried banners and badges bearing the slogan, “Ni una menos”, which means, “not one less.” Others wore t-shirts in support of the movement.

The demonstrations were organized by journalists, writers and artists following the news of the murder of Chiara Páez, a pregnant 14 year old by her 16 year old boyfriend. He allegedly beat her to death after learning she was pregnant.

Chiara’s death is only the latest in a string of instances of violence against women. In April, a kindergarten teacher (who had separated from her husband and had a restraining order against him) was killed when her husband stormed into her classroom and slit her throat in front of a group of children.

Another woman was shot by her estranged partner a mere two days before the demonstrations. She remains in serious condition.

Femicide – the killing of a woman by a man where her gender plays a role in the crime – is a growing issue in Argentina. Over 250 femicides have occurred each year since 2010. Activists have reported that a woman is killed in Argentina every 31 hours – culminating in over 1,800 deaths since 2008.

Many are calling for a change in culture to curb the violence, including Argentinian lawmaker Gabriela Alegre: “The current situation shows that legislation and prison sentences are not enough. We have to confront the problem by changing the culture and educating people.”

That attitude was echoed by La Casa del Encuentro, an NGO which provides counseling for abused women in Argentina. Head Fabiana Tunez spoke of “a society that is sick with machista attitudes where the woman continues to be seen as a thing to be dominated.”

The problem isn’t restricted to Argentina. Statistics suggest that over five women are killed in instances of domestic violence per day in Mexico, and as many as 15 per day are killed in Brazil.

Although Argentina has taken some steps towards curbing the issue, activists urge that it hasn’t been enough. The National Congress passed legislation in 2009 to prevent violence against women, and in 2012 passed laws initiating harsher sentences for femicide. However, despite these efforts cases of violence against women have still increased.

 

For more information please see:

AFP – Brutal murders show violence women face in Latin America – 2 June 2015

BBC – Argentine marches condemns domestic violence – 4 June 2015

Buenos Aires Herald – #NiUnaMenos: a deafening cry sweeps country – 4 June 2015

International Business Times – 200,000 rally against femicide and domestic violence in Buenos Aires – 4 June 2015

PanAm Post – Mass Protests Call Out Argentina’s Femicide Problem – 4 June 2015

The Independent – Thousands takes part in mass demonstrations to condemn violence against women – 4 June 2015

 

 

Peru To Introduce Bill To Broaden Scope Of Domestic Violence

By Brendan Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

LIMA, Peru – In an effort to curb the rampant violence against women experienced in Latin America, the Executive branch of the Peruvian government is proposing legislation in order to expand the definition to further protect its population. The submitted bill will amend the countries Law on Protection against Domestic Violence (LPDV) expanding the definition of violence to include coercion via sexual, physical, psychological and economic means.

The Executive Branch of Peru is introducing legislature that would broaden the definition of Domestic Violence. (Photo courtesy of Gestion)

According to independent estimates in Peru, 50% of women in urban areas have experienced at least one instance of physical or sexual violence, with that number rising to 69% in rural areas, and with 30 percent of women suffering some sort of psychological abuse as a result of their partners.

This new bill is just the next step that President Ollanta Humala’s fight to bring Peru into the 21st Century. The National Parliament of Peru approved a bill that would modify the National Plan of Reparation in order to include compensation for survivors of sexual violence. This would allow those forced into prostitution, sexual slavery, survivors of sexual abuse and kidnappings that occurred in Peru’s violent wartime past. These victims will be allowed to seek compensation for any sexually based crimes that were forced upon.

The initiative to amend the LPDV would mean that any act or omission, directly or indirectly, produced between household members that could result in any type of impairment of physical, sexual or psychological or economic detriment would be punishable. Earlier domestic violence was hard to identify, with only immediately view able situations or evidence such as bruises was domestic violence easy to punish. Domestic violence has been known to affect not just the abused, but the health of children within violent households. Peruvian children whose mothers suffered from domestic violence tend to weigh less and are more likely to suffer from disease. Seeing as nearly 50% of women in Peru have reported some type of violence, these results have widespread meaning.

Economic violence would be classified as any attempt to coerce the autonomy a household, which would cause financial or property damage through loss, conversion, theft or destruction property of the partnership or owned by the victim.

The reasoning behind the amended bill works under the theory that actions of a sexual nature committed against someone against their consent or during times of duress, even without penetration constitutes a violation of human rights and an offense to human dignity.

With Peru’s less than impeccable past concerning women’s rights, this represents at least an attempt to curb the epidemic of gender inequality that haunts the Latin American country.

For more information, please see:

Gestion – Executive Proposes To Expand The Legal Definition Of Domestic Violence – 10 February 2013

Eval Central – Development That Works: The Costs Of Crime And Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean – 5 February 2013

Womankind – Peru Moves To Bring Justice For Women Survivors Of Sexual Violence During Conflict – 5 June 2012

United States Institute of Peace – Sexual Violence And Justice In Postconflict Peru – 1 June 2012

BRIEF: Warrantless Raid on Gay Community in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek police raided the community center of Labrys, an organization which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Kyrgyzstan, on April 8th.  Without a warrant, three police officers forced their way into the building, which also serves as a shelter for LGBT people and women suffering from domestic violence.

According to Labrys staff, they looked through private files and demanded to see documents regarding Labrys’ registration, statutes, and rent statements.  The officers threatened to arrest those present if they did not fully cooperate.  The police chief eventually joined the officers and said that the only way they would leave was if Labrys staff sent them copies of administrative and financial documents the next day, so Labrys staff agreed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement last week demanding that the Kyrgyz police stop harassing the gay community.  According to Scott Long of the HRW LGBT Rights Program: “Police should protect organizations defending human rights, not use their power to harass and intimidate them. The raid sends a chilling message to anyone marginalized or stigmatized.”

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Kyrgyzstan: Halt Anti-Gay Raids – 17 April 2008