Claudia Thaler –
A Russian father beating his wife or his children could soon be punished with merely a legal slap on the wrist, provided he is guilty of only one such offence per year, according to a bill approved last week in a landslide vote by Russia’s lower house of parliament.
The bill, up for its second reading in the lower house, seeks to reduce punishments for domestic violence from the current two years imprisonment to only a fine for a first offence in an effort to keep families intact, according to the bill’s co-author Yelena Mizulina.
Imprisonment for a “slap” is tearing families apart, Mizulina, who heads the legislature’s committee on family, women and children affairs, said in a parliamentary discussion of the bill.
“We do not want you to spend two years in jail just because there was a slap,” Mizulina said in comments carried by state media. “In Russia, family values are based on the authority of parents.”
Critics believe such legislation could cover up an endemic problem, often linked to alcohol abuse. According to government statistics in recent years, about 12,000 to14,000 Russian women die annually from domestic violence.
That equates to one woman every 40 minutes.
Mizulina became known internationally in 2013 as an author of another controversial law to outlaw public promotion of homosexuality.
The so-called gay propaganda law seeks to shutter businesses or organisations deemed guilty of promoting non-traditional sexuality.The law stipulates stiff fines for individuals and the deportation of foreigners.
The following year, Mizulina was sanctioned by the European Union and United States for her support of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Now she faces renewed, harsh criticism from abroad.
Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, of which Russia has been a member for more than two decades, appealed to Russia’s parliament in an open letter, saying the domestic violence law would be a “clear sign of regression” in the country and hinder global efforts to counter the problem. An online petition against the bill has gathered about 200,000 signatures.
In the opinion of the local women’s rights organisation Sisters, the law would only raise barriers for victims to talk publicly about ill-treatment.
“Many women now accept domestic violence and are silent about their fate,” the organisation’s head, Olga Yurkova, told newspaper Novaya Gazeta. “The new law will only make matters worse.” — dpa