As It Happens

Russian move to decriminalize domestic violence 'extremely misguided,' advocate says

A proposed Russian law to decriminalize domestic violence is "extremely misguided," says Human Rights Watch. The bill would make any violence not resulting in broken bones or hospitalization to be punished by a fine instead of jail time.
Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina is the driving force behind proposed legislation that would decriminalize domestic violence in Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

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Rights advocates are calling on Russian lawmakers to reject an "extremely misguided" law that, if passed, would decriminalize domestic violence.

If this bill is passed into law, it would be a huge setback for efforts to eradicate domestic violence in Russia.-  Yulia   Gorbunova , Human Rights Watch 
"If this bill is passed into law, it would be a huge setback for efforts to eradicate domestic violence in Russia," Human Rights Watch researcher Yulia Gorbunova told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "It will support the very misguided idea that what happens in the family — even if it's abuse — should stay within the family." 
Human Rights Watch researcher Yulia Gorbunova (Human Rights Watch)

The proposed law would change domestic violence from a criminal offence to an administrative one, reducing the maximum penalty to a fine rather than jail time. According to the Associated Press, the fine would be approximately 30,000 rubles ($500) or a 15-day arrest.

Effectively, this means beatings that don't result in serious injuries like broken bones or concussions would be decriminalized. The law would apply both to violence between spouses as well as the use of physical force against children. 

According to official government statistics, 40 per cent of all violent crimes in Russia are committed within the family.

"It puts children at risk," Gorbunova said. "The most disappointing part about this is there's already a huge gap in state response for domestic violence victims. Not only is there no adequate legislation in place — and now it's being made even weaker — but there are also no adequate social services, no supports, no infrastructure in place to help those who suffer from domestic violence." 
Lawmakers listen to the national anthem during the opening session of the newly elected State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, in Moscow on October 5, 2016. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

The bill passed its first reading in the Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, by a margin of 386 votes to one. The next reading is scheduled for Wednesday.

The legislation was proposed by ultra-conservative Duma member Yelena Mizulina, who was also behind Russia's controversial 2013 law banning gay "propaganda."

According to statements translated by Human Rights Watch, Mizulina has said "a man beating his wife is less offensive than when a woman humiliates a man," and that parents should be allowed to hit their children without fear of legal reprisals.

But Gorbunova accused the bill's supporters of using "rhetoric of traditional family values to basically green-light beatings and abuse."

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Yulia Gorbunova.


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