“As long as you don’t break any bones”
The controversial policy passed by the Russian government decriminalising domestic violence has caused uproar by feminist and humanitarian groups in Russia and across the world for putting already vulnerable victims in grave danger.
Under the new law an act of domestic violence will be processed as an administrative offence and not a criminal one. Beatings that result in bruising or bleeding, but not broken bones will be punishable by 15 days in prison or a fine if they don’t occur multiple times a year, whereas previously they carried a jail sentence of up to two years. In a progressively more liberal Europe, Russia continually lags in equality laws. But decriminalising domestic violence seems to be a return to the middle centuries.
“The overall message to Russian citizens is that domestic violence isn’t a crime”
A statement made by Andrei Sinelnikov of the Anna Centre, a violence-prevention charity.
Already more than 70% of women who call the Anna Centre’s hotline never report their cases to the police. If anything, this new law will increase the number of victims not reporting crimes. It is ultimately silencing a victim and empowering a criminal.
“If he beats you he loves you”
Wife-beating sympathy has been intertwined with “family values” in Russia. Domestic violence has deep cultural roots as considered by this Russian proverb. And the new law is under the belief that Russia wants to “protect family values” – but it is this misguided patriarchal sense of family that the Russian government want to protect.
Whilst 40% of all violent crimes are being committed within the family, the government justifies the decriminalisation because family affairs are not the state’s business.
“The family is a delicate environment where people should sort things out themselves,” says Maria Mamikonyan, head of the All-Russian Parents Resistance movement.
“You don’t want people to be imprisoned for two years and labelled a criminal for the rest of their lives for a slap.”
The simplicity of this statement by Russian MP devalues the 14,000 women dying at the hands of their husbands or partners every year in Russia. By decriminalising domestic violence, they are trivialising the crime and dehumanising the victim.