Ultra-conservative Russian MP Yelena Mizulina, best known for successfully introducing for the law banning so-called gay propaganda, introduced a new bill to the State Duma in July proposing the decriminalisation of violence within families.
“Battery carried out toward family members should be an administrative offence,” said Mizulina, who is chair of the Duma committee on family, women and children’s affairs and is now a senator in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper chamber of parliament. “You don’t want people to be imprisoned for two years and labelled a criminal for the rest of their lives for a slap.”
Yet according to official Russian government statistics, 40% of all violent crimes are committed within the family. This amounts to 36,000 women being assaulted by their partners every day and 26,000 children being beaten by their parents every year.
Larisa Ponarina, deputy director of the Anna Center, an NGO helping victims of domestic violence, suggests that more than 14,000 women die every year as a result of domestic abuse.
Mizulina’s bill comes after a recent amendment to the criminal code, introduced by the Supreme Court and signed into law by Vladimir Putin, which declares family violence a criminal offence to be investigated and prosecuted by the state, on an equal footing with hooliganism and hate crimes. This change came into force in early July.
Mizulina, backed by traditional family values campaigners, is attempting to undo the amendment. The Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement saying that “if reasonable and carried out with love, corporal punishment is an essential right given to parents by God”.
The UN has criticised Russia’s record on women’s rights, recommending the adoption of new legislation on domestic violence, the establishment of shelters and other support for women victims of violence.