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Russia softens the law on domestic violence

Russia softens the law on domestic violence
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters, AFP
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The country's lower house has passed a bill decriminalising some forms of domestic violence. It will make battery of a relative a civil and not criminal offence when the victim suffered no serious har


The Russian parliament has adopted a law that will ease some penalties for domestic violence.

The law was passed by 380 votes to three on its third reading on Friday.

It now must pass through the upper house and be signed off by President Vladimir Putin, steps generally considered a formality.

On Wednesday, the State Duma – or lower house of parliament – passed the bill in its second of three readings by 385 votes to two.

It will make battery of a relative by first-time offenders a civil and not criminal offence when the victim suffered no serious harm.

Will the penalty be lighter?


First offenders face a fine of 30,000 roubles (around 470 euros).

The current penalty is up to two years in prison.

What the “slapping law’s” supporters say

Those who support the proposed change, including members of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, say they want to protect parents’ right to discipline their children.

They also want to limit the state’s ability to meddle in family life.

“This is an historic vote because in certain countries the state’s role in family life is way too much,” said Andrei Isayev, a United Russia deputy.

“Today’s vote will end such practices in the Russian Federation.”

Supporters also say anyone who inflicts serious physical harm will still be criminally liable.

What are campaigners saying?

Women’s rights campaigners fear it will encourage abuse.

They say it is a retrograde step.


“This law calls for the exoneration of tyrants in the home. The message is: ‘Let’s not punish a person who beat up his family at home, just because he has the right to do that’,” said Maria Mokhova, executive director of the “Sisters” crisis centre for victims of abuse

Yekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist specialising in parliamentary matters, says Russia should consider drafting a new law to specifically target domestic violence.

“At the very least, such a law should envisage introducing restraining orders, a measure that is currently absent from Russian law, to protect family members who are at the risk of violence,” she said, adding that shelters could also be set up for victims.

What the Kremlin says

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it is important to distinguish between “family relations” and repeated instances of violence.


Domestic violence in Russia – the numbers

An estimated 14,000 women die in Russia each year at the hands of husbands, partners or other relatives, according to a report by the United Nations in 2010.

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