The lower house of the parliament in Russia, the Duma, has approved the draft bill of decriminalizing some forms of domestic abuse. The bill is just a step closer to becoming a law as it will now have a third reading and will need the approval of the upper house and President Vladimir Putin.
The bill, which is being dubbed as the “slapping law,” decriminalizes a first offense of domestic violence that does not seriously injure the person. The bill also includes violence against children.
Under the plans, first time offenders who cause less serious injuries could face fines or community service rather than prison.
The bill was introduced by MP Yelena Mizulina, a highly conservative lawmaker and author of Russia's controversial "gay propaganda law," which prohibits "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships."
Andrei Isayev, a member of the Russian Parliament who backs the bill, says, “This is a historic vote because in certain countries the state's role in family life is way too much. Today's vote will end such practices in the Russian Federation.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say whether domestic violence should be decriminalized, but told journalists that "creating solid families is a priority. It's what everyone needs." He also said it was important to distinguish between "family relations" and repeated incidents of violence.
The bill was opposed by women’s rights groups saying that the law would be a “huge step backward.” Human Rights Watch has also urged parliament to reject the law, calling it "dangerous and incompatible” with Russia's international human rights obligations.
Maria Mokhova, executive director of the Sisters crisis center for abuse victims, said, “This law calls for the exoneration of tyrants in the home. The message is: 'Let's not punish a person who at home beat up his family, just because he has the right to do that.’”
Women’s rights activist Alena Popova ridiculed the bill and launched a petition on Change.org demanding that the Duma pass a completely new law against domestic violence.
People took to Twitter to speak up against the proposed bill as well.
Official data on domestic violence in Russia is very limited, but estimates based on regional studies suggest that each year 600,000 women face physical and verbal abuse in the home and 14,000 die from injuries inflicted by their husbands or partners.
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