Conrad Gradalski explains Russia’s recent decriminalisation of domestic abuse.
Vladimir Putin has recently signed a new law that decriminalises some forms of domestic abuse. According to the new legislation, domestic violence will now be punishable only if it has happened more than twice a year with the possibility of the perpetrator getting a 15-day prison sentence or paying a fine. As long as the victim doesn’t suffer a broken bone, the first time offenders will not be subject to any punishment. As the Russian saying goes, “БЬЕТ – ЗНАЧИТ ЛЮБИТ”, (“beating means loving”).
It’s common knowledge that Russian politics differs from the liberalism of Western Europe. In 2013, the Russian government banned gays from organising public marches, as well as educating children in school about homosexuality. Disgraceful as this is, the government at least put forth a semi-logical (take that with a massive pinch of salt) argument to support it. Statistically, the majority of Russia’s population is religious and conservative, meaning that most of them don’t approve of homosexuality. Part of the ban was due to safety issues. Had the gay activists gone to the streets, law enforcement wouldn’t have been able to guarantee their safety. With these two main factors in mind, some may assess that the Russian government had a valid reason to put an end to gay rights advancement.
There is no such logic supporting this recent legislation. According to a 2010 United Nations report, an estimated 14,000 women in Russia die at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends each year. Further, over 80% of women, when asked about their experiences with violence at home, responded that at least once in their lives they were subject to beating by a man in their house. These statistics sent a clear message to the Russian authorities. Domestic abuse is a very big problem in Russian families and the government must act to prevent it. Instead of this, however, they’ve made it easier for husbands to beat their wives and get away with it.
This law also affects child-parent relations. According to Yelena Mizulina, a Russian MP that drafted the new order, physical punishment towards children is the basis of the “traditional Russian family”, in which relations are “built on the basis of authority, power, mutual love and indispensability”. What is also interesting is the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church, a very influential part of Russian society, made a statement last year which insisted that physical punishment is a right given to parents by God himself. Furthermore, those in favour of the new legislation argue that the family is secular and therefore not even the state should interfere with its domestic issues. But does that mean that mean that the state should be blind to criminal offences that occur in families?
All these claims are alarming. There are two things that should be recognised. Firstly, beating anyone at any age, regardless of their gender, is not an act of love. It creates a toxic and fearful environment. Instead of understanding, there’s shouting, and most importantly, instead of words, there are fists. Secondly, this new law doesn’t give victims the appropriate measures to protect themselves. Knowing that the authorities aren’t going to do anything “if it happens only once” doesn’t encourage the victims to fight their case. Instead, they will stand alone in fighting their potential oppressor. In the end, the Russian government has given not a red, but a green light for domestic abuse.
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