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Russia moves to decriminalise domestic violence

MOSCOW (AsiaNews): The lower house of the Russian Duma approved a bill on January 27 that if passed in the upper house will decriminalise domestic violence, limiting the means for recourse available to victims, as well as softening the penalties for those who abuse them.

The State Duma voted 380 to three in favour of the bill, which now needs the approval of the upper house and the president, Vladimir Putin, to become law. Observers regard this as a formality.

Under the proposed legislation, first-time offenders who do not cause serious injury will face a fine of up to 30,000 rubles ($3,875), instead of up to two years in jail as required under the current law.

“We want to show that Russian deputies will not allow the same excesses present in western Europe,” Andrei Isayev, from the ruling United Russia Party, explained, claiming that European children inform on their parents in order to get their way, which leads to the parents losing custody.

Russian human rights advocates have been critical of the bill, as they believe it will undermine the struggle against domestic violence, which they describe as a serious problem in Russia.

The Communist Party opposed the bill after a proposal to exclude attacks against children and pregnant women was voted against.

“Women often do not go to the police or the courts to complain about their violent husbands,” Yuri Sinelshchikov noted. “Now they will go even less and the number of murders will increase.”

Interior Ministry data show that 40 per cent of all violent crimes in Russia are committed in family surroundings. In 2013, more than 9,000 women were reported to have been killed in domestic violence and more than 11,000 badly injured.

The State Statistics Agency said that in 2015 there were 49,579 crimes involving violence in the family and 35,899 involving violence against a woman.

A survey taken in January by the state-run pollster, VTsIOM, shows that 19 per cent of Russians believe that it is acceptable to hit your wife, husband or child in certain circumstances.

Research cited by Human Rights Watch shows that the problem is even worse. A study from 2013 reveals that more than 80 per cent of violent crimes against women in Russia are committed by spouses or intimate partners.

Up to 36,000 women and 26,000 children face violence in the family every day.

In a 2011 study of 30,000 women in 60 Russian regions shows they had been subjected to psychological violence, whilst every fifth respondent said they had been subjected to physical violence at the hands of their husbands or partners.

In a 2005 study of 2,200 people in 50 towns and cities across Russia, 70 per cent of women said they had been subjected to at least some form of violence—physical, sexual, economic, or psychological—by their husbands and 36 per cent had experienced both physical and psychological violence.

The government is being accused of failing to prevent domestic violence and ensuring justice for victims. Observers say that officials tend not to investigate or even respond to allegations.

The lack of facilities for victims makes matters worse. Moscow has less than 150 spaces in shelters in a population of 12 million people.

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